An EU court has told Adidas it cannot hold a trade mark for the use of three stripes "in any direction".
A ruling made yesterday by the General Court of the EU in Luxembourg has upheld a 2016 decision, preventing Adidas holding exclusive copyright of the use of three stripes on products in the European Union.
The court said that the graphic mark was "devoid of any distinctive character" for a trade mark.
"The mark is not a pattern mark composed of a series of regularly repetitive elements, but an ordinary figurative mark," it said.
Adidas "disappointed with the decision"
An Adidas spokesperson said that the company was disappointed at the court's ruling.
"This ruling is limited to this particular execution of the three-stripe mark and does not impact on the broad scope of protection that Adidas has on its well-known three-stripe mark in various forms in Europe," said the Adidas spokesperson.
"Whilst 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."
Particular mark not recognised all across EU
In particular, the court found that Adidas had failed to establish that three stripes applied in any direction across clothing and footwear was unique to the sportswear brand across EU member countries.
It was able to show that the mark was recognised in this way in only five of the 28 EU member countries.
Furthermore, the sports brand had provided evidence that relied on marks in a number of different colour variations.
Adidas' current trade mark is a logo typically displayed as three black lines of equal width, slanting from left to right against a black background. This mark remains protected in all EU states.
Decision upholds 2016 court ruling
The 2016 ruling reversed a ruling by the European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) from two years prior that stated that the three-stripe mark applied in any direction was indeed a recognised Adidas trade mark in the EU.
The original case was brought by Belgian company Shoe Branding Europe, which owns a brand called Patrick. Patrick's products are branded with two stripes that slope in the opposite direction to those of Adidas.
According to the court judgement, the Adidas mark sloping in whichever direction should not have been successfully registered in 2014.
Adidas can appeal the verdict to the European Court of Justice, the highest court ruling on EU law, within the next two months.
Last year Nestlé also lost a long-running court battle, to trademark the four-finger design of its chocolate bar KitKat.