Many New Jersey residents think of the apparel manufacturer Adidas when they see athletic shoes or sportswear with three stripes just as they associate Nike with their distinctive swoosh and Reebok with the Union Jack. The German company has spent decades building the Adidas brand, and it has taken aggressive legal action on several occasions against companies that it feels have infringed on its intellectual property rights.
The latest such lawsuit was filed by attorneys representing Adidas on April 20 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. The defendant is the Danish shoe manufacturer Ecco, which Adidas accuses of confusing consumers by producing several sneaker styles with designs featuring three or four stripes.
The intellectual property litigation seeks compensatory and punitive damages under the provisions of the 1946 Trademark Act. Adidas also wants the court to order Ecco to immediately cease production of the sneaker styles in question and turn over any profits generated by their sales. Similar lawsuits were filed by attorneys representing Adidas against Sketchers USA Inc. in September 2015 and against Athletic Propulsion Labs in March 2016. Adidas scored a victory in one of these cases in February when a court ordered Sketchers to stop producing sneakers similar to those made by the German company.
Lawsuits of this type serve two purposes. In addition to recovering damages for lost sales or the infringement of intellectual property rights, this kind of litigation may also prompt other potential infringers think twice. While many associate copyright, patent or trademark disputes with blatant copies or counterfeit products, these cases are often far more nebulous. Attorneys with experience in this area may urge their clients to protect their intellectual property aggressively to prevent the value of these assets being gradually eroded by parties that may take greater and greater liberties when not challenged legally.