Thom Browne’s iconic striped brand has sparked a surprise adidas lawsuit, first reported by The Fashion Law. In a complaint filed this week, adidas claims that Browne’s brand somehow “mimics” the three stripes – despite the two companies existing in quite different markets.
In the initial complaint, adidas claimed that Browne was profiting from the “widespread fame and immense public recognition” of the Three Stripes and the “extremely valuable goodwill” that adidas had garnered through “millions of dollars” from. public promotion. “Despite Thom Browne’s knowledge of [adidas’] rights to the famous three-stripe brand… [Browne] has expanded its product offering far beyond [its] specializing in formal wear and work wear, ”continued adidas. Browne “now sells athletic style clothing and footwear with two, three or four parallel stripes in a way that is confusing with the three stripe branding of Adidas,” as part of an alleged offer to ” misleading the public ”intentionally.
Thom Browne recently expanded their offering to include more pieces of sportswear, and their main fare has always incorporated at least a little bit of sport. In particular, his tracksuits remain eternal bestsellers; like all his casual clothes, they are marked with three red, white and blue stripes or four tone-on-tone lines. Browne has also recently deepened his partnership with FC Barecelona – although adidas are no longer sponsoring the club, he is seeing the movement as Browne steps further into his sports field.
The lawsuit is quite bizarre, however, as adidas and Browne aren’t really competitors. Affordable hoodies, sweatpants, workout clothes and sneakers from adidas are quite distinct from Browne in terms of brand and market. Would Browne really benefit from someone mistaking his expensive sportswear for adidas clothing? Of course, adidas has an occasional penchant for luxury, but its production is significantly more affordable than Browne’s products, so it seems every company is looking for totally different customers.
It’s also worth remembering that adidas is notoriously contentious, maybe even more so than Nike. adidas has fought almost every brand to even consider using a design that is slightly reminiscent of Three Stripe, from Skechers to J. Crew, although its capers haven’t always been a hit.
Still, adidas claims to have “investigated” Browne’s production since 2018, even opposing European trademarks registered by Browne to cover its striped brand and engage in “unsuccessful” negotiations with Browne. In December 2020, adidas made similar efforts to prevent Browne from successfully filing a similar trademark in America, hence the new lawsuit. Adidas’ goal with this effort – as cited in the fashion law brief – is to obtain pecuniary damages from Browne and to prevent the designer from “distributing, marketing or selling clothing and shoes using or wearing similar and confusing imitations of the adidas three stripe mark.
An adidas representative declined to comment on the ongoing matter. Highsnobiety has also reached out to Thom Browne, but at the time of writing, the brand has not responded.