After filing an array of trademark infringement lawsuits over the past year against brands like Marc Jacobs, Forever 21, APL, and Skechers, adidas has named ECCO in an interesting new suit for allegedly infringing its three-stripe trademark. According to the German sportswear giant's complaint, which was filed on Wednesday in federal court in Portland, Oregon, the home of adidas’ North American headquarters, adidas claims that ECCO, a Danish shoe brand, "intentionally adopted and used counterfeit and/or confusingly similar imitations of the Three-Stripe Mark knowing that they would mislead and deceive consumers into believing that the [sneakers] were produced, authorized, or licensed by adidas, or that they originated from adidas.”
In its rather strongly-worded complaint, adidas claims that ECCO's three-stripe designs are "in blatant disregard of adidas’s rights.” Adidas also alleges that ECCO knew exactly what it was doing, as the brand’s actions demonstrate "an intentional, willful, and malicious intent to trade on the goodwill associated with adidas's federally registered Three-Stripe Mark to adidas's great and irreparable injury.”
The interesting part: at least a couple of adidas' recent filings - particularly the one against APL - have been of questionable merit according to intellectual property experts. It's most recent lawsuit seems to support that notion, as well, as ECCO's shoes (pictured below) arguably do not even really appear to heavily mirror adidas' three-stripe trademark in a way that would be identifiable to consumers. This is significant considering that the key inquiry in a trademark infringement lawsuit is whether the allegedly infringing uses create a likelihood of confusion among consumers as to the source of the allegedly infringing goods. In order to meet its burden, adidas would have to show that consumers are likely to believe that given ECCO's allegedly infringing use of its three-stripe trademark that consumers will be led to believe that it was somehow affiliated with or that it endorsed ECCO's designs. This seems like it would be a stretch.
In addition to a request for a jury trial, adidas wants ECCO to immediately and permanently cease all sales, distribution and marketing of the allegedly infringing footwear, deliver it to adidas so it can be destroyed and pay up a wide array of damages, which may be in the millions. As for whether that jury trial will ever happen based on arguably weak claims on which adidas is basing its lawsuit, it seems highly unlikely.