[guest post by JVW]
National Review Online reports on an interesting dust-up in patent and trademark law:
Forty-eight hours after asking the U.S. trademark Office to reject a Black Lives Matter trademark application, German sporting apparel giant Adidas is backing down.
A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that the company was concerned the trademark dispute would be misinterpreted as Adidas standing against the movement’s cause. “Adidas will withdraw its opposition to the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation’s trademark application as soon as possible,” a company statement read.
At issue is the yellow three-stripe logo design Black Lives Matter filed a trademark application for in 2020. In Adidas’s view, that logo has a clear resemblance to the company’s classic three stripes.
Adidas had orignally argued that they have become associated with a three-stripe logo — in fact, they capitalize it in their filings as “Three Stripe Mark” — and like any trademark holder they seek to protect their branding. I have argued in the past that trademark law is heavily abused, especially by those who can afford high-powered legal representation, and from the pictures I have seen of the BLM trademark it seems to be quite the stretch to assume anybody would mistake it for the German shoe and clothing company. On the other hand, I can’t help but look with disdain upon the apparent commercialization of BLM. From Reuters:
The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation is the most prominent entity in the decentralized Black Lives Matter movement, which arose a decade ago in protest against police violence against Black people.
The group applied for a federal trademark in November 2020 covering a yellow three-stripe design to use on a variety of products including clothing, publications, bags, bracelets and mugs.
So there you have it: after cornering the real estate market, BLM is apparently going to be peddling logo swag, no doubt shoddily made in some repressive and autocratic country by exploited low-wage workers who have no other occupational options. And Adidas has been cowed into accepting a potential logo infringement which they almost certainly would have fought tooth-and-nail had it been any other corporation. It would seem that Adidas is currently dealing with some pretty troubling issues, according to the NRO article:
Despite the remarkably strong filing, the company decided all of the benefits to ensuring the Black Lives Matter trademark application is rejected were outweighed by the risk — the risk of being misinterpreted as against the cause.
Since 2008, Adidas has filed over 90 lawsuits and signed more than 200 settlement agreements related to the three-stripe trademark, as court documents in a dispute against Thom Browne’s fashion house revealed. In that case, the jury found Thom Browne’s four-stripe motif did not violate the trademark.
Adidas is already struggling financially after ending the lucrative Yeezy contract with Kanye West for his antisemitic public remarks. The company is now under the leadership of Bjørn Gulden, who is attempting to lead Adidas through the West fiasco, as well as a ruptured deal with Beyoncé and sales that are tanking in China, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Someday, some brave souls are going to decide that BLM’s contribution to society is not commensurate with the obsequious deference they are being given, but I guess that day is still well into the future. In the meantime, Adidas deserves all of the headaches that are coming their way.