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Adidas Takes Fashion House Thom Browne to Court Over Striped Motif

The sportswear giant Adidas and the fashion brand Thom Browne are in a legal dispute in New York after Adidas alleged that the firm’s usage of parallel bars on its clothing violated the “Three Stripes,” which Adidas has trademarked.

The jury trial started on Tuesday at the Southern District Court in Manhattan. It comes after Adidas filed a lawsuit in 2021, claiming that athletic wear with Thom Browne’s striped patterns “imitates” it’s long-standing branding.

Thom Browne, an American fashion designer who just took the helm of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, established his own company in 2001.

Browne first introduced a three-striped style, known as the “Three-Bar Famous,” in 2005. He showed up to court wearing one of his signature four-striped socks. When Adidas contacted the label’s then-CEO about the issue two years later, his fashion company reportedly agreed to stop using the design.

Fashion Designer Thom Browne arrives to court on January 3 wearing one of his brand's signature four-striped socks.

Designer Thom Browne introduced his contentious “Four-Bar Signature” in 2008; it is a set of four stripes that have appeared on sportswear as well as goods like ties and outerwear. The use of Thom Browne’s “Grosgrain Signature,” a red, white, and blue design, is also being contested by Adidas. Thom Browne claims it has five stripes, while the sportswear company claims it has three and describes it as “white-red-white-blue-white” in court documents.

Since 1949, when German founder Adolf Dassler used it on a pair of spiked racing shoes, Adidas has been known for its three stripes. Thom Browne’s usage of striped themes on his activewear, according to the company’s legal filing, is “likely to cause consumer confusion and deceive the public.”

In the meantime, Thom Browne’s legal team has contended that Adidas’s claims-making process was unduly delayed. According to court records, items with the “Four-Bar Signature” were originally offered for sale in 2009 and displayed on activewear at the fashion label’s main New York location starting in 2010.

A model wears a design from the Thom Browne Spring-Summer 2023 collection, debuted in Paris in October last year.

The global sportswear company asserts that Thom Browne’s trademark application for the “Grosgrain Signature” (commonly referred to as Signature Grosgrain on the brand’s website) in Europe was when it first became aware of the alleged violation. Adidas’ legal team contends that the business had no need to keep an eye on Thom Browne’s production and initially did not view the brand as a direct rival.

According to court records, the parties made an unsuccessful effort to settle the dispute outside of court.


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