In June 2021, German sportswear brand Adidas filed a lawsuit against luxury high-fashion label Thom Browne to dispute his use of stripes. After a long wait, it was this Tuesday when the trial kicked off, in which Adidas will aim to determine whether the four parallel stripes are an infringement on their apparel, which has used three striped sportswear since the 1940s. The lawsuit states that “Thom Browne sportswear and footwear feature three and four stripes in ways that adidas claims is likely to deceive, confuse, and mislead actual and prospective purchasers of adidas’s merchandise.”
Thom Browne entered the courtroom for his eponymous label, and rocked up in a sharp tailored ensemble, in his signature shorts with a knitted vest, tie and cropped jacket, but it was the addition of his high socks that truly summarised the trial, one of which was striped. It was then that his tailored take on sportswear was met with some raised eyebrows, as the luxury label’s attorney told the jury it was the “uniform” Browne and his employees would wear each day, and not just for the benefit of the ongoing trial.
This isn’t the first time that the brands have had a stripe-off, however, as lawyers for both parties told the court that Browne had previously used three stripes in his designs, agreeing to add a fourth to avoid a legal battle with Adidas. A spokesman for Browne told WWD in 2021, when the claims started, that it “is important to understand is that Adidas gave its consent to Thom Browne over 10 years ago and in fact suggested that Thom add an additional stripe to reach four on the sleeves or the pants and that this would be OK by Adidas. From that point for over a decade Adidas never said a word to Thom Browne.” Adding, “It is only now, with Thom finally achieving some real success that Adidas has behaved differently.”
Since Thom Browne was founded nearly 20 years ago, the brand has offered preppy sportswear to many-a-celeb, including signing footballer Lionel Messi and basketball team NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, which will have been a slight sting for Adidas as both previously had relationships with the three striper’s before heading to luxury. Consumers are still confused when it comes to differentiating between the two is Adidas’ argument, with their attorney stating it is a “targeted attempt to grow its sportswear business”.
WWD further reported that the lawyer for Thom Browne argued that “Thom Browne is a luxury designer and Adidas is a sports brand”, stating the stark difference from the outset. Adidas is looking to receive $867,225 in damages, which is what the sportswear brand would have received had both entered a licensing agreement in the first place. But Adidas aren’t stopping there, and are looking for $7 million more, which is the equivalent of what they claim Browne has made from selling his four stripes.