Idia M. Egonmwan
And so, it began: Adidas and Forever 21 have entered into what seems to be a saga-like series of litigious events. Adidas is a German-based athletic brand, founded in 1949, and known for its Three-Stripe Mark. With over 2000 stores worldwide and 30 American stores, Adidas is no stranger to being on either end of intellectual property related lawsuits (think Skechers, Nike, and Under Armour). In 1984, California-based Forever 21 enters the retail market, garnering fame and a (some would say) cult-like following due to its trendy apparel offerings and low pricing. With over 600 stores worldwide, with 500 of those in the United States, Forever 21 has also seen its fair share of intellectual property-related lawsuits.
In May of 2015, Adidas filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Forever 21. Adidas claimed Forever 21 intentionally adopted and used counterfeit and/or confusingly similar imitations of the Three-Stripe Mark. Adidas claimed that Forever 21 is misleading and deceiving consumers into believing the apparel’s source was Adidas. In a very surprising turn of events, however, Adidas filed to voluntarily dismiss the lawsuit, settling out of court. Sounds pretty settled, correct? Not a chance. Enters Forever 21.
In February of 2017, Forever 21 received a letter from Adidas’ counsel threatening to sue Forever 21 over it use of stripes on clothing. Forever 21 further claimed that it has repeatedly fallen victim to multiple similar threats by Adidas. According to Forever 21, Adidas has developed a pattern of complaining about striped apparel sold by Forever 21 since 2006; the threats have gradually increased to include virtually any apparel with three stripes. In an exhaustive effort to settle the matter once and for all, Forever 21 filed a declaratory judgment action against Adidas in March of 2017, asking a California district court to declare that it was not infringing on Adidas’ mark. In response to Forever 21’s action, Adidas filed its own action: a trademark infringement suit, claiming that Forever 21 has offered repurposed Adidas products on its website. In a surprising turn of events, that same month (March 13th to be exact) Forever 21 moved to voluntarily dismiss its declaratory judgment suit against Adidas. In response to Adidas’ suit, Forever 21 filed a motion asking for the court to order Adidas to provide a more definite statement of Adidas’ claim. True to form, however, In December of 2017 Adidas agreed to an out of court settlement.
While the details of the settlement have not been disclosed, a quick search on Forever 21’s website reveals none of the apparel Adidas alleged to be infringing on their Three-Stripe Mark. It seems safe to say that to Adidas go the spoils...for now.