More than a year and a half ago, the sports goods manufacturer Adidas filed a lawsuit against the US luxury brand Thom Browne. The point of contention is the three parallel stripes, which have been a trademark of Adidas since the 1940s, as the German sportswear giant sued Thom Browne for using a similar stripe pattern. This week, representatives of Adidas and Thom Browne had a court date in Manhattan, the US industry magazine WWD reported.

    Adidas is demanding compensation from Thom Browne of more than 867 thousand US dollars (equivalent to 816.62 thousand euros). According to Thom Browne, the sportswear brand should have received this sum for licensing the use of the stripes. The sporting goods retailer is also demanding the $7 million ($6.5 million) that Thom Browne earned selling striped clothing and shoes, according to Adidas.

    Do the stripes confuse customers?

    Thom Browne has used stripes that reference American collegiate athletic uniforms since the brand’s inception. When Adidas realized this, the company contacted then-CEO Thom Browne. As a result, it was decided in 2007 that Browne would no longer use three but four stripes. According to Adidas, however, customers still perceive these as three stripes, which the company says is leading to increasing confusion as Thom Browne is now increasingly making sportswear in addition to tailored clothing.

    According to Thom Browne’s lawyer, there is not too much likelihood of confusion. “Three stripes is not the same as four horizontal bars,” he said. He also stressed that Adidas didn’t seem to have any problem with Thom Browne’s four-stripe mark from 2008 to 2018. The fact that allegations are being made again after such a long time is unacceptable for the luxury brand.

    Fashion designer Thom Browne in federal court in Manhattan. Photo: MICHAEL M. SANTIAGOGETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICAGetty Images via AFP

    To date, Thom Browne has not commented in court on the allegations made by the sports manufacturer from Herzogenaurach. His appearance, however, could be seen as a statement. On Tuesday, the designer appeared in his classic Thom Browne uniform: cropped jacket, underneath a cardigan with shirt and tie and, as is his custom, suit trousers that ended just above his knee. Even without further context, this choice would be quite daring, after all, a courtroom is rarely the place for fashion experiments. However, Browne’s choice of knee-high socks are particularly striking, because they adorn the four stripes that are currently being debated in court.

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