Adidas Opposes Turner Broadcasting's ELEAGUE Logo Trademark Because Of Lines

from the those-damned-lines dept

eSports, the once fledgling video game competition industry, has undergone several milestones in rapid succession as it grows into a true entertainment player. Once relegated to online streaming broadcasts, mostly run out of a few Asian and Pacific Island countries, eSports is now regularly broadcast on American television, including by ESPN. From there, it was a fairly natural progression for universities to take notice and begin organizing school eSports teams, as well as offering scholarships for eAthletes.

But while these milestones are both important to and positive for the eSports industry, not all milestones will always be so happy. I would argue that it's a milestone of sorts that a real-world athletic apparel company, Adidas, is suing an eSports league over its logo. Turner Broadcasting has invested in a venture called ELEAGUE, which has been broadcasting eSports for the better part of two years. Turner registered several trademarks for ELEAGUE, including the following logo.

Regular Techdirt readers will have already guessed why Adidas has opposed the trademark for the logo. Going back for what feels like time immemorial, Adidas has jealously protected the broad but admittedly iconic three-stripes logo it has cultivated for itself. And while even we skeptics can carve out a space for Adidas to have a valid claim on that sort of mark, it's been Adidas' aggression in going after anyone using anything even remotely similar to three-stripes regardless of shared industries, notable variations in branding, or actual customer confusion.

Which doesn't keep the company lawyers from pretending otherwise in oppositions such as this one against ELEAGUE, of course.

The opposition is filed on two counts—confusion and dilution.

The first alleges that the similarity between the two logos, that they consist of three broken lines, and "the fact that their respective goods and services overlap or are otherwise closely related" means that the ELEAGUE logo could create the impression that events are sponsored or endorsed by Adidas. While Adidas acknowledges that it does not do business in esports—although it is the shirt sponsor of Counter-Strike team North—esports is "within the natural zone of expansion of adidas’s business and goods and services".

On the second count, Adidas contends that the similarity between the brands will dilute the strength of the Adidas logo as a hallmark of authentic Adidas goods. That, Adidas say, would damage their brand.

Again, I suppose it's a milestone of sorts that a big player like Adidas files a trademark opposition under the theory that real-world athletic apparel and eSports broadcasts are in related industries. Still, the claim is an obvious stretch. The actual ELEAGUE logo calls to mind the letter "E", not Adidas' stripes, and the associated branding throughout the rest of the logo act as a clear source identifier. Pained concerns about customer confusion on the part of Adidas would seem to be laughable on their face, nevermind the question as to why it took so long for Adidas to undertake this if there is so much customer confusion and dilution.

Turner Sports first filed the trademark application in June 2016, but it took Adidas until Oct. 10 of this year to file the opposition.

It sure seems like the kind of harm Adidas is claiming would have required hastier action than a year and half's worth of waiting. Hopefully those reviewing the opposition will take that into account and grant ELEAGUE its mark.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Oct 2017 @ 7:48pm

    Similarity between brands? Adidas had better start suing every single Chinese establishment that makes use of the number 3, then.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Oct 2017 @ 7:57pm

    It is worth emphasizing that this matter is not a lawsuit involving a plaintiff and a defendant. It is only an administrative proceeding before the USPTO known as an opposition proceeding.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Paul Brinker, 18 Oct 2017 @ 8:07pm

    Tesla is next

    I was going to post that the Tesla Model 3 Logo was going to be a problem, but they have already been sued by Adidas.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mononymous Tim (profile), 18 Oct 2017 @ 8:42pm

    Dilution is the wrong word

    It's just Adidas and their lawyers that are suffering from confusion and delusion.

    Do these companies even realize they're basically claiming their own customers/fans are so incredibly stupid they can't tell the difference?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ryunosuke (profile), 18 Oct 2017 @ 9:21pm

    oh, well, I am glad we cleared THAT up, I was confused as to why Esports logo suddenly had their lines perpendicular to what they had before.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Oct 2017 @ 9:35pm

    To the author of this article, you are apparently unaware that trademark applications are not published for opposition by members of the public until they have been examined and a determination made that a trademark registration should issue. The period of pendency can vary from a few months to several years. The time period involved here is not at all unusual, so trying to make the opposer appear as if it was taking its sweet time is highly misleading.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Andy, 19 Oct 2017 @ 3:53am

      Re:

      [Adidas Employee Detected]

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Oct 2017 @ 6:01am

        Re: Re:

        It could be Michael Slonecker again, mind. The guy who insists Masnick is wrong about copyright and patents and vigorously defends patent trolling while refusing to show his work, then gets all uppity when called out on his nonsense.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Oct 2017 @ 5:41am

    God created the letter "E" at the Tower of Babel. You's guys are so sued!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Aaron Walkhouse (profile), 19 Oct 2017 @ 7:51am

      God doesn't sue…

      …because He has the authority to go directly to smiting.

      Most times he reserves judgement for the sentencing phase. ‌ ‌ ;]

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    hobo, 19 Oct 2017 @ 8:33am

    Maybe..

    Up front, I find myself on the same side of the argument as Techdirt writers 95, 98, 99%? of the time, and I've been reading here for more than a decade. And I find most trademark and patent and copyright claims that get reported to be pretty ridiculous. But I don't see this one as entirely unreasonable.

    Adidas being concerned about a company in the sports world using a fairly similar logo does not strike me as absurd. One might assume Adidas sponsors or runs this league. One may argue that Adidas' prior aggressiveness has created a 'boy who cried wolf' situation so that even when a reasonable trademark case arises, they have turned public opinion against themselves. Fair enough.

    But this sort of thing reminds me (being a Beatles fan) of Apple Corps vs Apple Computer. Apple Computers had been around for about two years before Apple Corps sued. If the bigger company (Apple Corps to begin with) sues every tiny startup immediately, people are upset. So if they wait to sue in instances where there may be actual overlap and concern, that's somehow an indication that there is no harm? From this layman's perspective, Apple Corps vs Apple Computers shows that isn't always the case. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Corps_v_Apple_Computer)

    I am fairly certain that I would disagree with most, if not all, of Adidas' prior claims. I'm not pro-large corporations. But given that esports is a growing area that could make ELEAGUE massive one day, I can't fault Adidas for wanting to protect their mark here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Paul Brinker, 19 Oct 2017 @ 9:06am

      Re: Maybe..

      In this case Adidas really goes out of its way to attack anything that uses 3 lines. Above I noted Tesla, but they actually attacked Tesla because they also put logos on clothing and apparel. This is only an example that they think they own everything about 3 lines on top of each other.

      Same can be said for the Olympics, they sued a diner in the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state for using Olympic in the name. It was not till a court squashed them that they chose to stop going after things named after geological stuff. Adidas needs the same lawsuit smackdown to be totally fair.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Docrailgun, 19 Oct 2017 @ 12:04pm

    Esports

    Clearly universities have too much money if they're offering scholarships to people to play video games. Where's my tabletop RPG scholarship?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 19 Oct 2017 @ 3:21pm

    That's a logo? I thought it was just ugly stripes they put on shoes. In a different arrangement and angle from this e-whatever.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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