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Adidas Sues Puma Over ‘Three-Stripe’ Trademark

Adidas accused longtime rival Puma of selling look-alike soccer cleats recently, kicking off the latest court battle over the German giant’s heavily policed “three-stripe” trademark.


Adidas AG, which has aggressively protected the stripe design in recent years, filed an infringement lawsuit in Oregon federal court that claims Puma is selling spikes with a confusingly similar four-stripe design on the side.


“Puma’s use of four diagonal stripes on the side of the infringing cleat is a blatant attempt by Puma to trade on the goodwill and commercial magnetism adidas has built up in the three-stripe mark and to free-ride on adidas’s fame as a preeminent soccer brand,” the company wrote.


The suit isn’t exactly Adidas’ first tangle with Puma. The two companies were founded decades ago by brothers Adi Dassler and Rudolph Dassler, respectively, and are both still headquartered in the same German town. In 2013, Fortune ranked them among the greatest business rivals of all time.


In a recent complaint, Adidas made sure to mention the backstory.


“Puma is not only a direct competitor, but shares a mutual history with Adidas,” the company wrote. “Puma is thus intimately familiar with adidas’s three-stripe mark and the enormous goodwill it represents.”


A spokeswoman for Puma did not immediately return a request for comment.


Adidas’ suit is the latest in a string of enforcement actions over the three-stripe mark, which has been the company’s signature branding element for more than six decades.


In recent years, the shoemaker has filed similar infringement suits in federal court against fashion designer Marc Jacobs, retail chain Forever 21 Inc., big box store Sears Roebuck & Co. and rival footwear company Skechers. It has filed many more actions at U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to prevent the registration of similar marks by other companies.


For instance, Adidas asked the USPTO to stop electric car maker Tesla Inc. from registering a logo for the company’s Model 3 sedan that included three stripes. Tesla quickly withdrew the application days later.


Adidas is represented by Stephen M. Feldman of Perkins Coie LLP.


Counsel information for Puma wasn’t immediately available.


The case is Adidas America, Inc. et al v. Puma North America, Inc., case number 3:17-cv-00283, in the U.S. District Court of Oregon.