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three stripes
Blog 16 Feb 2017

Adidas vs Tesla; three stripes and you're out

Adidas, the brand with three stripes, is known for being very alert when it comes to infringements of its trademark rights. Tesla, the manufacturer of electric vehicles, amongst other things, knows this all to well. When the American car manufacturer came up with a logo with three stripes in it, Adidas aggressively defended its logo.

What was going on?

Tesla had developed a logo for its newest car model, the “Model 3”, which consisted of three stripes. The design of it was exactly equal to the shape of the letter E in the main brand Tesla. The car manufacturer had applied for registration of the logo in the United States. Tesla had pushed for a large target group; not eliminating the possibility of the logo being used for clothing. That was a step too far for Adidas. After the publication of the trademark application, the German company filed a complaint.

Tesla 3 vs Adidas 3 stripes
Tesla's Model 3 stripes and Adidas' 3 stripes

Adidas' objection

The sporting goods manufacturer argued that the Tesla logo was so similar to the Adidas trademark that it would lead to confusion. The American Trademark Authories are of the opinion that familiarity is a very important criterion to not register a mark. Adidas emphasized also that Tesla’s logo would decrease the strong association between the three stripes and the German sporting goods brand. Moreover, the confusing effect of the logo would lead to less revenue and less distinctive power, according to Adidas.  

The outcome

Tesla did not let the case go to court. The company, well-known for its transparency, withdrew its trademark application after Adidas’ protests. Although it remains uncertain how strong Adidas’ case was, it was probably a smart decision by Tesla. The company avoids risking damaging its strong reputation and image. CEO Elon Musk stated that the logo for the newest Tesla-model will simply consist of the number “3”.

Once again, Adidas has shown that it does not like to be challenged when it comes down to their stripes. Besides, the case emphasizes the importance of preventing other brands from “piggy backing”. The bigger and more famous a brand, the more important that prevention is.