Global sportswear manufacturer Adidas has recently filed an opposition against Turner Broadcasting System’s (TBS) ELEAGUE three stripes logo (comparison picture above). ELEAGUE is a professional esports league that began broadcasting in the summer of 2016 on TBS.
The notice of opposition highlighted ADIDAS’s sponsorship of the FIFA Interactive World Cup tournament, a video game competition featuring the popular soccer video game in the FIFA video game series, first released in the 1990’s by video game developer Electronic Arts, emphasising the existing association with competitive gaming tournaments.
This is not the first time that ADIDAS has sought to protect the ‘stripes’ element of its brand identity. In April 2016, Adidas issued court proceedings against Ecco claiming that it infringed the various ADIDAS trade marks incorporating three stripes by selling footwear featuring three and four parallel stripes (comparison picture below).
A few points to be taken away from these ‘three-stripes’ trade marks wars:
First, trade marks are valuable. Trade marks protect a company’s ‘brand identifiers’ that consumer use to find its goods and services. They are the assets that prevent competitors from unfairly benefiting from a company’s well-established reputation, goodwill, brand and image.
Second, trade mark owners should remain vigilant for infringement and competing applications, and should take preventative action where necessary. ADIDAS clearly has an appetite for litigation and obviously intends to vigorously defend its trade mark portfolio against the ELEAGUE application and others. A less vigorous approach to the protection of the company’s brand and image could lead to the dilution of the ADIDAS brand as a whole (and the ‘three stripes’ trade mark in particular) through prolific use over time.
Finally, simple signs are often protectable as trade marks. It may be possible to register even simple signs such as parallel lines as trade marks and such mark may also acquire distinctiveness over time. Accordingly, applicants intending to file new trade mark applications (even for marks or signs that are seemingly simple or generic) should always carry out extensive due diligence in advance to avoid the costs and other risks associated with opposition, invalidation and / or infringement proceedings later on.
Briffa advises on contentious and non-contentious trade mark matters, as well as all aspects of intellectual property law and practice. If you would like to discuss protection for your brand, or broader protection for your business’s intellectual property assets, please do not hesitate to drop into our offices in the Business Design Centre in Islington or contact us on [email protected]