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Adidas under the microscope (Ip Conference London September 23, 2008)


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The protection of stripes as a trademark; overview of the Adidas cases concerning the alleged infringement of its three stripes trade mark by the use of two, four, five or six stripes

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Adidas under the microscope (Ip Conference London September 23, 2008)

  1. 1. Intellectual Property in the Fashion Industry <ul><li>Stripes in the Sportswear Sector: adidas under the Microscope </li></ul>23 September 2008, London Gino van Roeyen
  2. 2. Warning : ‘Too many stripes can finally drive you mad’ <ul><li>Michel Pastoureau, The Devil’s Cloth: A History of Stripes </li></ul><ul><li>- Fascinating study containing proof that stripes on clothing are an all time phenomenon for (from a historical and sociological perspective) the bad, the ugly and the good - </li></ul>
  3. 3. Is this man – for the benefit of doubt: yours truly – a madman? <ul><li>Disclosure and disclaimer : working as attorney-at-law for H&M in the stripe case against Adidas that started in 1997 </li></ul>
  4. 4. What Pastoureau says about the three stripes of Adidas <ul><li>Mentioned only once (note 4, p. 101-102): </li></ul><ul><li>‘ The trademark for Adidas sport articles was no mistake, the company having chosen for its emblem three parallel bands, shown as stripes on the clothes and shoes it sells practically throughout the world. These three bands fully connote the idea of speed and athletic performance.’ </li></ul>
  5. 5. You’ve got to know your history! <ul><li>A few eye-catching adidas stripe realities that one might esteem important in establishing the scope of protection of adidas 3 stripe trade mark: </li></ul><ul><li>1948: Adi Dassler (founder of adidas) sews 3 stripes on sides of shoes (picked out of samples with 2–6 stripes) </li></ul><ul><li>2 stripes on clothing were common (military and sportswear background): </li></ul>
  6. 6. 3C – 3rd Infantry Division (Marne Division) 10/24/18 – present. Organized at Camp Green, North Carolina in 1917. Stopped the last of the German offensives at the Marne. Three white diagonal stripes (for 3rd Division) from R to L on blue (for loyalty) square patch. Three stripes stand for three major campaigns in WWI: Marne, St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne.
  7. 9. <ul><li>More than that : 2 stripes used by Adi Dassler and brother Rudolf on shoes produced in joint company before split up in April 1948 (Rudolf set up Puma) </li></ul><ul><li>Olympics Berlin 1936 : Jesse Owens on 2 stripe adidas shoes in 2 stripe trousers (not adidas!) </li></ul>
  8. 10. Why were 2 and 4 stripes abandoned by adidas? <ul><li>Continuing use 2 stripes might stir up discussions with Rudolf </li></ul><ul><li>Use of number of stripes that were not in use yet </li></ul><ul><li>4 stripes found to be messy </li></ul>
  9. 11. Were 3 stripes really the magic number? <ul><li>Finnish Karhu already produced shoes with 3 stripes </li></ul>Source: in May 2007 Source: in August 2008
  10. 12. Karhu’s website reveals background? <ul><li>‘ 1950’s </li></ul><ul><li>Partly because of the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and due to its technical expertise, Karhu becomes one of the true sports equipment producers and earns its international reputation as the leading manufacturer of athletic shoes. Somewhere round the 50’s Karhu sells its three stripes trademark to one nowadays well know man who’s sport brand also uses the same trademark. The price they got was two bottles of good whiskey and about 1600 euros.’ </li></ul>
  11. 13. <ul><li>Karhu had sold shoes with sometimes 2, sometimes 6 stripes before WW II </li></ul><ul><li>Important source: </li></ul>
  12. 14. Zatopek at Olympics Helsinki 1952 <ul><li>3 stripes adidas shoes at training, but 2 stripe adidas shoes during competition </li></ul><ul><li>1 stripe removed by adidas upon Zatopek’s request: communist leadership should not be provoked by product from a capitalist country </li></ul>
  13. 15. Use of 2 stripes continues in 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s
  14. 16. Adidas before District Court The Hague 1971 against HEMA <ul><li>' Adidas has argued that – for reasons she does not want to disclose – she does not take action against shoes with 2 stripes, which are in Adidas opinion hardly confusingly similar to her 3 stripe shoes; that shoes with 1 stripe are not confusingly similar at all; that she objects against shoes with 4 stripes, that resemble to a high degree in a confusingly similar way 3 stripes shoes, and against which she takes action in court. </li></ul><ul><li>The Presiding Judge finds that Adidas claim is aimed at monopolizing designs of parallel stripes by way of enforcing her trade mark right for 3 parallel stripes. Adidas has admitted that she has no objection, and therefore does not take action against the use of 2 parallel stripes on shoes. </li></ul><ul><li>Incompatible with this admittance is the monopolization of parallel stripes that Adidas claim is aimed at, especially since Adidas emphasizes in her advertisements very much &quot;her&quot; 3 stripes.’ </li></ul>
  15. 17. That’s why you don’t find 4, but 2 and 5?
  16. 18. No opposition against Dutch soccer players in 2 stripes in 70s
  17. 19. Serious Attacks in 90s against 2 stripes <ul><li>Contrary to adidas restraint to 3 or more stripes? </li></ul><ul><li>Backgrounds? </li></ul>
  18. 20. 3 important Dutch 2 stripe cases 1996/1997 <ul><li>Adidas / Marca Mode – Presiding Judge District Court Breda (decision July 17, 1996) – confirmed in appeal CoA Den Bosch April 17, 1997 </li></ul><ul><li>Adidas / H&M – Presiding Judge District Court Breda (decision October 2, 1997) </li></ul><ul><li>Adidas / Fitnessworld – Presiding Judge District Court Zwolle (decision October 3, 1997) </li></ul>In chorus: 2 infringe 3 – risk of association
  19. 21. Case I : Marca versus adidas <ul><li>Dutch Supreme Court November 6, 1998 (referral to ECJ): </li></ul><ul><li>Application of Sabel/Puma risk of confusion criterion to well known trademarks? </li></ul><ul><li>ECJ June 22, 2000: yes! </li></ul><ul><li>Risk of association is not enough although well known trademark enjoys greater scope of protection </li></ul><ul><li>Dutch Supreme Court: no decision yet…. </li></ul>
  20. 22. Case II : adidas / Fitnessworld (1) <ul><li>CoA Arnhem August 18, 1998: </li></ul><ul><li>No risk of confusion </li></ul><ul><li>3 = 3 and not 2 </li></ul><ul><li>Public knows! </li></ul><ul><li>2 only used as decoration (factual finding!) </li></ul>
  21. 23. Case II : adidas / Fitnessworld (2) <ul><li>Dutch Supreme Court October 12, 2001 (referral to ECJ): </li></ul><ul><li>Art. 5 (2) Directive: applicable if goods are not similar? </li></ul><ul><li>Applicable criterion: confusion or ‘dilution’? </li></ul><ul><li>Role decoration on infringement decision? </li></ul>
  22. 24. Case II : adidas / Fitnessworld (3) <ul><li>ECJ October 23, 2003: </li></ul><ul><li>Art. 5 (2) Directive: also applicable if well known trademark, for ‘similar goods’ cases (wording restricted to non similar goods) </li></ul><ul><li>Such similarity that public links sign and trademark </li></ul><ul><li>No protection if public perceives 2 stripes only as decoration </li></ul>
  23. 25. Case III : adidas / H&M (1) <ul><li>CoA Den Bosch June 9, 1999 (intermediary decision): </li></ul><ul><li>Risk of confusion as defined in Sabel/Puma not proved by adidas, but what if well known trademark? </li></ul><ul><li>Postponed till final decision ECJ / Dutch Supreme Court in </li></ul><ul><li>Marca/adidas </li></ul><ul><li>NB: not a word about ‘need to keep free’! </li></ul>
  24. 26. Case III : adidas / H&M – Marca and C&A - (2) <ul><li>Cases combined in appeal at CoA Den Bosch </li></ul><ul><li>CoA Den Bosch March 29, 2005 (final decision): </li></ul><ul><li>H&M case: no confusion! </li></ul><ul><li>no proof of dilution in 1996 </li></ul>
  25. 27. Case III : adidas / H&M – Marca and C&A - (3) <ul><li>Combined cases: </li></ul><ul><li>3 stripes strong trademark through use, not by birth </li></ul><ul><li>Broad scope of protection in 1996, but restricted to 3 </li></ul><ul><li>Stripes not suitable for a breadthways monopolization </li></ul><ul><li>Stripes common ‘ and should therefore be available for third parties too ’, even if 3 stripes have become well known trademark </li></ul><ul><li>Point of difference (2 and not 3) is essential </li></ul><ul><li>Precludes similarity situation leading to confusion </li></ul>
  26. 28. Intermezzo <ul><li>Presiding Judge DC Amsterdam June 8, 2006 (adidas/Scapa) (confirmed by CoA Amsterdam November 11, 2007): </li></ul><ul><li>No need to keep free and dilution </li></ul><ul><li>DC The Hague July 5, 2006 (adidas/Nike): </li></ul><ul><li>Allowed decoration, need to keep free, </li></ul><ul><li>no confusion, no dilution and swoosh </li></ul>
  27. 29. Case III : adidas / H&M – Marca and C&A - (4) <ul><li>Dutch Supreme Court February 16, 2007 (referral to ECJ): </li></ul><ul><li>adidas: ‘CoA decision incorrect. Need to keep free is a viewpoint that should only be considered in the registration process of a trademark’ </li></ul><ul><li>DSC: should the need to keep free be considered to determine the scope of protection of a trademark? </li></ul>
  28. 30. Case III : adidas / H&M – Marca and C&A - (5) <ul><li>ECJ April 10, 2008 </li></ul><ul><li>Art. 5 (1)(b) Directive </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Not allowed to consider the need to keep free to determine risk of confusion? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Wording art. 5 (1)(b) Directive / case law: ‘old school legalism’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Likelihood of confusion: public’s perception of goods covered by trademark and sign </li></ul></ul>
  29. 31. Case III : adidas / H&M – Marca and C&A - (6) <ul><ul><li>Need to keep free signs (stripes) have an abusive nature? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Decorative nature counts if stripes are not too similar </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Average consumer: do you think that adidas is a 2 stripe source? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Does an easy association between the sign and the trademark count? </li></ul></ul>
  30. 32. Case III : adidas / H&M – Marca and C&A - (7) <ul><li>ECJ April 10, 2008 </li></ul><ul><li>Art. 5 (2) Directive </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Need to keep free not a relevant factor for determination dilution? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Extraneous to similarity and link criteria </li></ul></ul>
  31. 33. Case III : adidas / H&M – Marca and C&A - (8) <ul><li>ECJ April 10, 2008 </li></ul><ul><li>Art. 6 (1)(b) Directive </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Need to keep free is protected if sign used indicates kind, quality, quantity, intended purpose, value, geographical origin, the time of production of goods or of rendering of the service, or other characteristics of goods or services, provided that use is in accordance with honest practices in industrial or commercial matters </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Decoration versus indication: speed and athletic performance </li></ul></ul>
  32. 34. The American Standard <ul><li>adidas vs Payless Shoes: the $ 305 million story </li></ul><ul><li>Payless Shoes had entered into agreement with adidas not to use 2 or 4 stripes + trade dress </li></ul><ul><li>Jury decision </li></ul>
  33. 35. Any - stripes - questions? Gino van Roeyen T: +31 73 6927705 F: +31 73 6927787 E: I: