Adidas backtracks over shameful move to bar Black Lives Matter from using three stripes trademark – Screen Shot
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Adidas backtracks over shameful move to bar Black Lives Matter from using three stripes trademark

On Monday 27 March 2023, German sportswear giant Adidas asked the US Patent and Trademark Office to reject an application for a Black Lives Matter (BLM) trademark featuring three parallel stripes. The company, known for its own unmistakable triple stripe, argued that it would mislead the public if the political and social movement used a yellow-stripe design.

In its filing, the brand sought to block BLM’s application to use the design on similar goods to the ones Adidas sells, such as bags, t-shirts, hats, and more. As you can imagine, netizens were quick to condemn the move, with many pointing out how easy it would be for people to mistake Adidas’ trademark objection as criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement and mission.

This, in turn, led to the sportswear label’s embarrassingly quick backtrack. On Wednesday 29 March, the company released a statement announcing its change of mind: “Adidas will withdraw its opposition to the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation’s trademark application as soon as possible.”

Right after the news hit the unforgiving Twittersphere, users immediately assumed battle stations,  jokingly coming up with other potential trademark disputes Adidas might go after:

Though it should be noted that the company is no stranger to filing lawsuits over its three-stripe trademark—it’s filed over 90 lawsuits and signed more than 200 settlement agreements related to the design since 2008—this controversy couldn’t come at a worse time for Adidas.

Following the end of its incredibly lucrative collaboration with Kanye West on Yeezy over anti-Semitic comments made repeatedly by the rapper, it was reported less than a week ago that the firm would also end its high-profile partnership with Beyoncé and the singer’s athleisure brand IVY PARK.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, in January, Adidas lost a lawsuit it had filed back in 2021 against New York designer Thom Browne’s luxury brand, claiming that the eponymous label’s four-bar and “Grosgrain” stripe patterns on its shoes and high-end activewear violated its three-stripe trademark rights.

According to a court filing, the German company had planned to ask the jury for over $7.8 million in damages, plus additional punitive damages and a cut of Thom Browne’s infringing sales. It also requested a court order stopping Thom Browne from using the designs.

Ultimately, the jury found that the fashion house’s parallel stripe designs were not likely to cause consumer confusion with Adidas’ products. Among other things, Thom Browne had also argued that its designs have a completely different number of stripes. Seriously, Adidas?

No Adidas Sportswear, Jenna Ortega isn’t the solution to reaching the gen Z market

Nike has dominated the gen Z scene with its innovative ambitions and exciting collaborations for as long as we can remember, and now it seems as though Adidas is desperate for a seat at the table. The German sportswear manufacturer’s solution? A boring campaign starring Wednesday star Jenna Ortega as the face of Adidas Sportswear, the brand’s first new label in five decades. I know, I was confused too.

Situated between Adidas Originals and Performance, the Sportswear line aims to balance sports and style—at least that’s what Aimee Arana, Adidas’ general manager of Sportswear and Training hopes to achieve.

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Speaking to Vogue, Arana explained that the new “lifestyle brand” will capitalise on changes that Adidas is witnessing within the market, propelled primarily by gen Z and fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. You’ve probably all heard this by now, but there is more of a desire than ever before for the fashion consumer to be comfy, and to incorporate that into their everyday wear—a gap that has been narrowed significantly by explosive TikTok trends like #blokecore.


bloke core baby #fyp #fypp #fyppppppppppppppppppppppp #foryou #viral #blokecore

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Surveys from research firm Piper Sandler as well as Ortega and South Korean football legend Son Heung-Min may have been enough to get a board of Adidas executives excited, but is it enough to win the ever so complicated hearts of our generation when the clothing shown in the campaign appears so lifeless?

Arana went on to explain to Vogue that young people are prioritising comfort in a post-pandemic society, but what we’ve seen of the label so far is painfully basic and critically fails to understand how gen Z approaches fashion. From a surface level, the drip in question looks shiny and cheap. The clothes aren’t aimed at a luxury market either like Adidas’ collaborations with Gucci, Prada, and the ever-controversial Balenciaga. All it’s currently giving is a bargain bin at the outlet store. Don’t even get me started on how ugly the shoes are.

We’ve seen raging successes with the internet aesthetics and subcultures like grandpacore and blokecore, but Adidas Sportswear’s first campaign is already missing the point. The aforementioned styles had an emphasis on being thrifty, environmentally-friendly and self servicing—the kind of practices that Adidas itself isn’t exactly well-known for.

In fact, it’s a company that’s been long under fire for using extortionate labour practices in less economically developed countries like the child labour scandal that rocked the company in 2000, or the more recent 2022 news that revealed Adidas may be linked to the forced labour of Uighurs in China.

Ortega becoming the brand’s first ambassador is a very smart move, but we know full well that star-studded editorials don’t make a clothing line relevant—that is, unless you’re Marc Jacobs’ Heaven… My feelings on Heaven are conflicted but credit where credit is due, Jacobs nailed the gen Z audience down to a T when he recruited fan-favourite Pamela Anderson amongst other trendy celebs.

The growing power of Adidas’ longtime rival, Nike, is backed up by its research and it’s clearly scaring the German company. The Piper Sandler research showed that 60 per cent of teens—from a sample of 14,500 people living in the US—said Nike was their favourite footwear brand, versus only 6 per cent of teens showing up to support Adidas.

The loss of Yeezy in 2022, thanks to Kanye West’s antisemitic meltdown, has also left a big, money-shaped hole in the pockets of the company. Expanding into the gen Z market is Adidas’ best bet at reclaiming dominance, but everything we’ve seen so far is failing to inspire confidence.

Although Arana is optimistic that the ‘new’ direction will boost Adidas sales, we know just how erratic and unpredictable the TikTok generation can be. C’mon, all the research in the world couldn’t have predicted trends like mermaid sleaze or balletcore.

Adidas Sportswear ultimately lacks any distinct identity, and even worse, it seems to completely misunderstand how young people are styling themselves. Literally five seconds spent on social media or a consultation with the content creators pushing fashion forward online would’ve shown the brand that simple, skinny, silhouettes paired with a very unexciting direction is far from what Adidas needs to push itself into the ever-changing youth markets.

The clothes are missing what gen Z so often finds appealing—the freedom to layer, style and express yourself as you see fit.