Sportswear giant Adidas has lost a legal battle to trademark its three-stripe motif in the EU, a court ruling the design wasn't distinctive enough to be protected.

The General Court of the European Union decided last Wednesday the three parallel stripes for clothing, footwear and sporting accessories are "an ordinary figurative mark".

The court upheld a 2016 ruling of the European Intellectual Property Office that nullified a decision to accept the mark following a challenge posed by a rival Belgian company, Shoe Branding Europe.

"The General Court of the EU confirms the invalidity of the Adidas EU trademark which consists of three parallel stripes applied in any direction," the court said in a statement.


The German sports brand needed to prove the motif of three parallel stripes had acquired a "distinctive character" throughout the EU in order to distinguish it from other brands.

"The mark is not a pattern mark composed of a series of regularly repetitive elements but an ordinary figurative mark," the court said.

This upholds an earlier decision made in 2016. Photo/Getty Images
This upholds an earlier decision made in 2016. Photo/Getty Images

Adidas said in a statement it was "disappointed" with the ruling, but said it only applied to one specific version of the motif — three black lines in parallel separated by two thinner white lines.

"While we are disappointed with the decision, we are further evaluating it and are welcoming the useful guidance that the court will give us for protecting our three-stripe mark applied to our products in whichever direction in the future," the company said.

The ruling comes after a decade-long legal tussle between Adidas and Belgium's Shoe Branding Europe, the latter previously winning trademark status for a two-stripe design that triggered court action from the German sports goods company.

Adidas is yet to decide whether to appeal Wednesday's decision at the European Court of Justice.