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All Day I Dream About Suing: The Adidas 3 Stripe Trademark War

Forever 21, the popular clothing retailer, is going on the legal offensive against Adidas, the athletic clothing and shoe goliath, which they have accused of being a trademark bully. Forever 21 recently filed a federal lawsuit, seeking declaratory relief against Adidas, after receiving another letter threatening to sue them over a trademark dispute related to the famous three stripe Adidas pattern.

Last month, Adidas threatened to sue Forever 21 if the chain refused to stop making and selling a few particular garments that had four stripe patterns. Over the past several years, Adidas and Forever 21 have been involved in various disputes over the three stripe pattern, and Forever 21 has yielded to the demands made by Adidas in the past. However, when Forever 21 received that last threat of litigation, rather than acquiesce again, they decided to ask the court to intervene to put a stop to Adidas's pattern and practice of unreasonably attempting to enforce their rather ubiquitous trademark.

Two Stripe, Four Stripe, Adidas Stripe, Lawsuit!

Although Adidas holds a trademark on their three stripe pattern, Forever 21 argues that Adidas should not be allowed to bully them, nor other clothing and shoe makers, into not using stripe patterns, particularly when the pattern uses two or four stripes, rather than three. Adidas has sued countless other clothing and shoe manufacturers, and even sued Tesla Motors, all over trademark infringement related to their three stripe pattern.

Generally, under trademark law, the owner of a trademark has the right to stop others from using their mark if there is a likelihood that the offending use would tend to confuse consumers. Adidas has pushed these protections to their limit, and is well known for vigorously defending their trademark against other brands that even come close to looking similar to their famous three stripe pattern.

What Is Declaratory Relief?

Threatening someone or a company with a lawsuit usually does not give rise to a lawsuit against the threatener. But when there is a dispute over a contract, or a dispute concerning how a law should be interpreted as it relates to a legal or business issue, the parties can seek out the guidance of the court. These actions are called declaratory relief actions. They can be filed on their own or in conjunction with other causes of action seeking relief. Essentially, the parties are asking the court to tell them how they should proceed, given their dispute, based on how the court would rule on the conflict after the fact.

In the context of the above lawsuit, essentially, Forever 21 is asking the court to stop Adidas from sending threatening cease and desist letters when they, and potentially others, make clothing with two or four strike designs.

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