The Adidas logo is not distinctive enough to be registered as a trademark, an EU court has ruled.
In what could be a sizeable blow to the value of the $14.3bn sportswear company, the general court of the 28-member bloc deemed the three parallel stripes to be nothing more than “an ordinary figurative mark”.
Adidas said it was disappointed by the call, which had its roots in a legal challenge by a Belgian shoe company that failed to secure trademark status for a similarly simple two-stripe design last year.
Shoe Branding Europe has been embroiled in a long court battle with Adidas, which wanted to establish a wider trademark for “three parallel equidistant stripes of equal width applied to the product in whichever direction”.
But the EU court said in a statement: “The general court of the EU confirms the invalidity of the Adidas EU trademark, which consists of three parallel stripes applied in any direction. The mark is not a pattern mark composed of a series of regularly repetitive elements, but an ordinary figurative mark.”
It marked another victory by Shoe Branding Europe, which previously challenged the registration of the three-stripe design in 2016 and was backed up by an intellectual property regulator in Brussels.
Upholding that verdict on Wednesday, the court said Adidas was unable to prove the motif had a “distinctive character” throughout the countries of the EU, therefore rendering it ineligible for legal protection.
Adidas has the option of appealing against the decision, but said it did not affect its ability to use and protect its logo, which it had managed to secure an EU trademark for in 2014 until Shoe Branding Europe stepped in.
The firm disputed the filing because one of its brands, Patrick, which it bought in 2008, features two stripes on its shoes and clothing, although they slope in the opposite direction to those on Adidas shoes.
It marks the latest in an increasingly long line of high-profile trademark and patent disputes in the sportswear industry, as companies bid to differentiate their products and justify premium pricing.
Recent high-profile cases include Nike taking on Puma over an allegation that it used patented athletic shoe technology without permission.
Shares in German company Adidas were down 1.8% following the ruling.