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Adidas Loses EU Court Battle Over ‘Three Stripe’ Design

German sportswear giant Adidas on Wednesday lost a legal battle to trademark its “three stripes” motif in the EU, as a court ruled the design was not distinctive enough to deserve protection.

The three parallel stripes seen adorning everything from running shoes to sports bags and the sleeves of t-shirts are “an ordinary figurative mark”, the General Court of the European Union ruled.

The court, the EU’s second-highest tribunal, upheld a 2016 ruling by the bloc’s intellectual property regulator cancelling the registration of the three-stripe design as a trademark following a challenge by a Belgian shoe company.

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“The General Court of the EU confirms the invalidity of the Adidas EU trade mark which consists of three parallel stripes applied in any direction,” the court said in a statement.

Adidas had not proved the motif had acquired a “distinctive character” throughout the 28 countries of the bloc that would qualify for legal protection, the court said.

“The mark is not a pattern mark composed of a series of regularly repetitive elements, but an ordinary figurative mark,” the court said.

The ruling is the latest round in a long legal tussle between Adidas and Belgian rival Shoe Branding Europe, which as far back as 2009 won trademark status for a two-stripe design, triggering court action from the German firm.

Adidas can appeal against Wednesday’s decision to the European Court of Justice, the bloc’s highest court.

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