In a complaint recently unsealed by a federal court in Oregon, but redacted to remove some details, Adidas accused Forever 21 of using a three-stripe design on a range of apparel, athleticwear and shoes that is “confusingly similar” to the well-known and long-trademarked three-stripe design of Adidas.
In addition to selling its own merchandise with allegedly infringing marks, the German athleticwear company said Forever 21 offered “repurposed Adidas” products on its web site, including women’s athletic pants and shorts, which Adidas says are simply counterfeit merchandise.
“Neither the infringing apparel and footwear nor the counterfeit apparel is manufactured by Adidas, nor [are] either of them connected or affiliated with, or authorized by, Adidas in any way,” the company said in its complaint. “The infringing apparel and footwear and counterfeit apparel imitates Adidas’s three-stripe mark (and, in the case of the counterfeit apparel, the Adidas wordmark and the badge of sport mark) in a manner that is likely to cause consumer confusion and deceive the public regarding their source, sponsorship, or affiliation.”
The goods at issue not only represent infringement of Adidas’ intellectual property, but constitute breach of contract on the side of Forever 21, because it had previously entered into a settlement agreement with Adidas over earlier accusations of infringement, according to the complaint.
Adidas is asking the court to permanently enjoin Forever 21 from selling apparel using similar iterations of its three-stripe mark, along with unspecified monetary damages and a disgorgement of all profits from the sale of the allegedly infringing and counterfeit goods.
A representative of Forever 21 said the company does not comment on ongoing litigation.
But the company has made its distaste for Adidas’ aggressive enforcement of its trademark rights known. In March, Forever 21 filed its own complaint against Adidas, characterizing the German company as a “bully” that’s taken its stripe trademark to mean “no item of clothing can have any number of stripes in any location” without infringing on its trademarks.
Forever 21 added in the complaint that “enough is enough” after being threatened with another lawsuit over its use of decorative stripes, and said it was not infringing on any of Adidas’ trademarks, nor has it breached any previous agreements with the company.
That complaint was voluntarily dismissed by Forever 21 not two weeks after it was filed, but offered a glimpse into the retailer’s thinking about Adidas’ approach to trademark infringement.
While Adidas is pursuing Forever 21, the company is also on the other side of the infringement table in a suit launched last week by CMG Worldwide Inc., which holds rights tied to famed pro baseball player Jackie Robinson.
CMG told an Indiana federal court that Adidas manufactured and in April released a limited line of baseball apparel and cleats using Robinson’s likeness and name without permission, allegedly constituting a false endorsement and violating CMG’s right to publicity.
Adidas promoted the Robinson line as part of a larger tribute to the athlete, who died in 1972, about 30 years after becoming the first black player in Major League Baseball, which included the purchase of a new baseball field for his California high school.
CMG, which holds licenses for images and products related to late celebrities, including James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald, among many others, is seeking unspecified damages from Adidas and a disgorgement of all profits realized from the sale of the Robinson merchandise.
An Adidas representative could not be reached for comment.
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