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Thom Browne Wins Another Round in Court With Adidas on the Use of Stripes

The U.S. Court of Appeals affirms the jury’s verdict.

Thom Browne Wins Another Round in Court With Adidas on the Use of Stripes

Thom Browne has long used stripes in its collections.

Thom Browne won again in his battle with Adidas over the use of stripes on his garments.

On Friday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said it would not overturn the jury verdict reached in January of 2023 that found Browne’s use of four stripes and its grosgrain ribbon did not infringe upon Adidas’s three-stripe trademark.

In its summary order, the court found no compelling reason for a new trial based on Adidas’s attempts to have certain testimony excluded, writing: “We have considered Adidas’s remaining arguments and find them to be without merit. For the foregoing reasons, the judgement of the district court is affirmed.”

“We are extremely pleased by the Court of Appeals’ ruling which affirmed the judgment of the District Court and found no legal basis to overturn the jury’s finding that Thom Browne Inc. did not infringe Adidas’s three-stripe mark,” a spokesperson for Thom Browne told WWD Friday.

Adidas America and Adidas AG had sued the designer, seeking damages of $867,225 — the amount the companies agree they would have received in licensing fees from Thom Browne Inc., if the two had worked together — as well as more than $7 million in profits they alleged the American designer made from selling apparel and footwear with stripes.

An eight-person jury in Manhattan Southern District Court came back with a verdict that found the designer was not liable for either damages or profits. However, Adidas appealed that decision.

There is still another appeal outstanding. Last October, Adidas asked for a new trial because it discovered four emails that were not disclosed by Thom Browne during the discovery period for the original trial.

Those emails, which dated between 2016 and 2019, were from employees who cautioned the designer about using specific stripe designs in its collections because they could potentially create confusion with Adidas. They surfaced during a separate trademark dispute between the two companies in the U.K.

In its response, Thom Browne said that the emails were not intentionally concealed but instead did not surface during computer-generated searches. Additionally, the designer said three of the emails in question were about product that was being designed for the Spanish soccer team FC Barcelona, and the fourth was about a retail store in Asia and therefore did not reference the product in the U.S. suit.

That case is still with the District Court and has not yet been ruled upon.

Browne had been using three stripes on his collections for many years to reference collegiate varsity sweaters, but, after being approached by Adidas in 2007, agreed to change the design to four parallel bars.

Adidas has been using its three-stripe bar in the U.S. since the 1950s. The athletic brand spends $300 million a year advertising the stripes, and products sporting the mark account for $3.1 billion in annual sales.