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Thom Browne can keep his stripes, a jury has decided. After a nine-day trial, the New York luxury brand has been found not liable for damages or profits from the sale of its four-stripe products in a dispute against Adidas over the stripe.
Adidas sued Thom Browne for nearly $8 million in damages and profits, arguing that Thom Browne’s stripes “mimic” its own brand, referring to its Three-Stripe trademark. After failing to settle out of court, the brands made their first appearance before Judge Jed Rakoff on Tuesday, January 3rd. On Thursday, just hours after closing arguments, the jury ruled in favor of Thom Browne.
“We are pleased that the jury found that Thom Browne, Inc. never infringed any of Adidas’ trademarks,” a Thom Browne spokesperson said in a statement. “Thom Browne has been a pioneer in luxury fashion for over 20 years, bringing a completely unique and distinctive design aesthetic that combines classic tailoring with an American sensibility for sportswear. We look forward to continuing to design and deliver the creative products that have become the hallmark of the Thom Browne brand.”
Adidas’ argument was that the use of Thom Brown’s stripes, particularly in its newer sportswear collection, would cause the general public to mistake Thom Brown’s designs for its own products. Thom Browne’s lawyer Robert T Maldonado countered that the sports giant does not own the stripes.
In his testimony on Jan. 9, the American designer talked about his lifelong love of sports, his years as a competitive swimmer at Notre Dame (where he shot a campaign for his soccer capsule collection in November 2022) and his journey to founding his eponymous brand. He also recalled a 2007 phone call from Adidas’ then-CEO about the designer’s “Three-Bar Signature” when he agreed to stop using the motif. Although he was frustrated, he switched to the four because “the last thing I wanted to do was get into a fight with a big company like Adidas,” he testified.
The underdog story resonates with American courts, says Jeff Trexler, deputy director of the Fashion Law Institute. That’s a result we’ve seen before at the court level, he adds, noting that Adidas’ sheer size did not prevail in this case. Thom Browne, a name in luxury, still dwarfs Adidas in terms of revenue: it brought in €1.09 billion in the third quarter of 2022, compared to Adidas’ €6.4 billion.
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