Can You Own Stripes?

from the striped-moron-in-a-hurry dept

We've discussed over and over again how companies misuse trademark law, believing that it gives them total ownership over the mark, rather than the fact that it's really designed to prevent consumer confusion. Joe Mullin has the details on the fact that shoemaker Adidas is suing a bunch of different companies for using stripes on shoes or other clothing. Adidas, famously, uses three parallel stripes on the side of its shoes as part of its brand -- and has a trademark on that design. That seems fair enough. But now it's won a $305 million ruling against a shoe retailer for daring to sell shoes that had two or four stripes. The company has also sued many other brands for various combinations of stripes and clothing. This is what happens when people talk about trademark as being "intellectual property." It gets them thinking that it creates total ownership over something as basic as stripes.
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Filed Under: stripes, trademark
Companies: adidas

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  1. identicon
    CJ, 23 May 2008 @ 11:38am

    I question which patent/trademarks they can and are suing for. If I sell a widget whose unique design I have protected and I have trademarked a letter m in the spartan typeface as my distint brand. And someone starts selling knockoff widgets with a letter n in spartan or a letter m in copperplate it seems stupid to believe that becasue I have a trademark on a spartan m that I should therefore by default also own rights on every other letter in that typeface or over the letter M in any other typeface, and thus I should not be able to expect to successfully litigate for brand infringement over the use of a trademark that might be similar, but is not mine. However if that knock off widget copied my protected desgin for the widget itself I could sue on those grounds and should expect to be able to point to the use of the fairly similar to my trademark mark used on the widget to lend a great deal of credence to my allegations that the knock off was not only infringing upon my widget design, but was specifically attempting to do financial damage to my sales of the spartan m widget.

    I think in general reports of what Addidas is suing over are most likely misconstrued, and really they are suing over infringements on trainer designs which were protected by patent, but using the similar stripe designs to further argue intentional infringement and not that the company is trying to claim they own all stripes. Of course corporations practicing logic in action is rare anymore, so perhaps they think they own stripes, in which case some judge should hand them the smackdown.

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