On your marks…
Back in 1949, a German individual by the name of Adolf (Adi) Dassler started a business. He combined the first three letters of his first and last name to create the company’s name.
Adidas has since grown to be one of the largest and most successful sportswear brands in the world with 2022 revenue of Euro 22.5 billion.
The Adidas three stripes is one of the most recognisable brands in sportswear. However, along with other companies with well-known brands, Adidas does face challenges in protecting their brand identity.
Trademarks are essential for businesses as they help protect the company’s brand and prevent others from using similar logos, designs or marks that can confuse customers. Adidas were involved in a recent situation with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Global Network Foundation involving trademarks.
The BLM submitted a trademark application which featured three parallel stripes. Initially, Adidas had opposed the BLM’s application stating that it would create confusion with its famous three-stripe mark. However, perhaps sensing some potential bad PR, the company later withdrew its opposition, without giving any reason for the reversal.
Trademark oppositions are not uncommon, and many companies go to great lengths to protect their marks. Some examples of trademark clashes include:
Starbucks vs. Xingbake
In 2006, Starbucks sued a Chinese company called Xingbake for using a similar logo and Chinese name that sounded similar to the English name of Starbucks. The Chinese company argued that the name was a combination of Chinese characters meaning “star” and “better.” However, Starbucks won the case, and the Chinese company was ordered to pay damages.
Apple vs. Prepear
In 2020, Apple filed a notice of opposition against a small meal-planning app called Prepear, claiming that their logo was too similar to the Apple logo. The Prepear logo featured a pear with a leaf on top, which Apple argued looked too much like their own logo. Eventually, Apple dropped the opposition after a public outcry.
Red Bull vs. Old Ox Brewery
In 2017, Red Bull filed a notice of opposition against Old Ox Brewery, claiming that their logo was too similar to the Red Bull logo. The Old Ox Brewery logo featured an ox with large horns, which Red Bull argued looked too much like their own logo. However, the US Patent and Trademark Office rejected Red Bull’s opposition, stating that the logos were not similar enough to cause confusion among consumers.
McDonald’s vs. McCurry
In 2001, McDonald’s sued a Malaysian restaurant called McCurry, claiming that the name was too similar to McDonald’s and could cause confusion among customers. The Malaysian restaurant argued that they had been using the name for over a decade and that “Mc” was a common prefix in the country. Eventually, the case was settled out of court, and the restaurant changed its name to “Mamak Curry House.”
Despite the importance of trademark protection, some people believe that companies can be too aggressive in enforcing their trademarks. For instance, there have been instances where companies have sued small businesses for using a similar name or logo, which can harm the smaller business’s reputation and finances. You can read our blog entry on comedian Joe Lycett changing his name to Hugo Boss in response to Hugo Boss taking legal action against the small Welsh brewery Boss Brewery here.
In summary, trademarks can be a critical component of a business’s identity and reputation. Although some critics argue that companies can be too aggressive in their trademark enforcement, most agree that trademarks are crucial for businesses to establish their identity, build trust with consumers and distinguish themselves from competitors.