Thom Browne - three or four stripes

Logos sometimes consist of simple geometric figures, such as lines, dashes, circles, dots or squares. This leads to a limited protection for such a logo. Consequence: it is difficult to object to similar signs.


After more than 20 years of litigation, the curtain fell for Adidas in its case against H&M. The Adidas logo consists of a pattern of three stripes where the spacing is equally wide as the stripe. H&M used only two stripes and a smaller spacing. Therefore, the similarity was deemed too low.

Meanwhile, a similar case is ongoing in the USA. Luxury brand Thom Browne uses four stripes on its clothes. Since 2018, the brand has also been marketing sportswear. According to Adidas, Thom Browne's 4 stripes sign infringes on its '3 stripes trademark'.

A lawsuit follows with a claim of approximately €7 million. Browne's lawyers argue that use of stripes is common. Both companies target a completely different audience. Browne's stripes are additionally used horizontally around an arm or leg (and again, the spacing is smaller). The New York court followed this argument: no infringement.


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IP quiz Trademarks

Puma is one of the bigger sports and lifestyle brands in the world. The core-business is the design, development and sale of (sports) shoes, (sports) clothing and accessories. In 1960, Puma registered an international trademark for a device designed in 1958: the formstrip. Since then, Puma has registered approximately 90 formstrip trademarks with validity in the Benelux or the European Union. Puma claims that this is a serial mark. Monshoe is a wholesaler of women's shoes and related products. The company designs and develops Monshoe shoes which it largely markets itself. Monshoe sells its women's shoes under the brands Shoecolate and Pearlz. The shoe Shoecolate is offered in various colour combinations. Puma claims that Monshoe infringes its well-known formstrip trademark. Monshoe contradicts this and states that the average consumer will not perceive the device of Monshoe on the sneakers as a trademark. And if the public will recognize a trademark in the decoration, it will not make the connection to Puma. According to Monshoe, the formstrip logo is not a well-known trademark within the meaning of the BVIE and the UMVo. There is no likelihood of confusion because the sign does not or hardly evoke any association with Puma among the public. In light of the above, who is right? Does this constitute decorative use or linking to a well-known trademark?