Lessons from Adidas on protecting your Business Trademark

Lessons from Adidas on protecting your Business Trademark

Recently Adidas filed a lawsuit on a four-stripe design, on a soccer cleat, by Puma North America Inc. This was yet another lawsuit in its history of aggressively monitoring and acting on any infringements on its protected designs and marks.

  • In 2001, Adidas filed a trademark infringement law suit against Payless ShoeSource Inc, for the sale of shoes and sportswear which had similar imitations of its famous Three-Stripe Mark.
  • In 2011, Adidas issued a cease and desist letter to Riedell Shoes Inc regarding new roller skate boots sold by Riedell which infringed and diluted the Adidas Three-Stripe Mark. In the same year, Adidas filed a trademark infringement action against Riedell.
  • In 2012, Adidas sued Wolverine World Wide Inc for the depiction and use of the two, three and four-stripe mark (of the comic character Wolverine) on footwear.

You cannot help but admire Adidas’ aggressive stance in protecting its Three-Stripe Mark and why not? The true value of any business is in its assets (tangible and intangible).

The invaluable lesson being taught by Adidas is that any business can own a trademark but protecting that trademark isn’t always about monetary gains and winning a law suit, it’s also about winning a turf war.

One of the best kept secrets in business, particularly for any thriving and growing business, is the value of a trademark to its product differentiation. With any economic downturn, a strong trademark becomes an effective marketing tool. Where there is a decrease in demand against supply and a scramble for the customer’s attention, a strong trade identity will ultimately influence the purchasing behaviour of customers who are likely to be careful in their buying decisions and revert to familiar and trusted brands.

Trademarks therefore play a vital role in commerce and competition.

‘’If we fail to protect our intellectual property rights adequately,
we may lose an important advantage in the markets in which we compete.’’
Authentec inc 10-K 2009

Unfortunately, many businesses in Nigeria have the impression that the odds are stacked against them in an environment that is neck-deep in varying forms of infringement and counterfeiting of products. Unlike Adidas, many businesses don’t monitor and police their trademarks. Businesses must learn the risks associated with losing a trademark.


Important tips to note:
  • Identify and register your trademark(s): A business should identify and register all trademarks used by it (directly or indirectly) or preserved for future use.
  • Keep your trademark registration: Regardless of how famous or well-known a trademark is in your business space locally or internationally, it is never enough to register a trademark. Maintenance or Renewal Fees must be paid intermittently to prevent the loss of the trademark rights.
  • Police your trademark: Any business should keep an eye out for the use of its business assets. Trademarks are no different. An efficient watch service scheme can help the business find out when its trademark is being applied.
  • Fight for your Turf: A business should protect its trademark portfolio in a timely manner and it need not be costly to do so. Business owners should be open to settlement arrangements but not putting up a fight should never be an option!
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