Monday, 24 June

Adidas backtracks on Black Lives Matter design opposition

A Black Lives Matter design

Adidas says it is withdrawing a request to the US Trademark Office to reject a Black Lives Matter (BLM) application for a trademark featuring three parallel stripes.

The sportwear giant did not give a reason for the reversal.

On Monday, Adidas said the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation design would create confusion with its own famous three-stripe mark.

It added that it has been using its logo for more than 70 years.

"Adidas will withdraw its opposition to the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation's trademark application as soon as possible," a spokesperson for the German company said in a statement emailed to the BBC.

The company declined to make any further comments on the decision. 

Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation is the most prominent entity in the decentralised BLM movement.

The group applied for a US trademark in November 2020 for a yellow three-stripe design to use on merchandise including clothing and bags.

In a notice of opposition submitted to the trademark office, Adidas said the proposed design "incorporates three stripes in a manner that is confusingly similar to the Three-Stripe Mark in appearance and overall commercial impression".

The company added that consumers who are familiar with its goods and services "are likely to assume" that those offered under the applicant's mark "originate from the same source, or that they are affiliated, connected, or associated with or sponsored by Adidas".

The US Trademark Office gave Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation until 6 May to respond to the challenge.

Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation did not immediately respond to a BBC request for comment.

BLM rose to prominence after the 2012 death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old who was shot by neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, in Florida.

The movement gained further support in the summer of 2020 after George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was murdered in Minneapolis, Minnesota by a police officer who knelt on his neck.

In January this year, Adidas lost a court case to try to stop the luxury brand Thom Browne from using a design.

The sportswear giant argued that Browne's four stripes were too similar to its three stripes.

Browne argued that shoppers were unlikely to confuse the two brands as - among other reasons - his had a different number of stripes.

Documents used in the case showed that Adidas had launched over 90 lawsuits and signed more than 200 settlement agreements related to its trademark since 2008. 

According to Adidas, the number of stripes on its famous mark does not have any significance. The company said its founder Adolf Dassler tested several versions and combinations of stripes, and found that those shown on its mark showed up most prominently in photographs.

Source: BBC