Adidas has withdrawn a request to US authorities to block the Black Lives Matter movement from trademarking a design featuring three parallel stripes.
The German sportswear company had said in a filing on Monday that the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation design would create confusion with the famous branding Adidas had been using for more than 70 years.
However, on Wednesday Adidas made an abrupt U-turn, dropping its opposition to the BLMGNF trademark application.
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“Adidas will withdraw its opposition to the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation’s trademark application as soon as possible,” a spokesperson said, without offering an explanation for the decision.
A source close to the company told Reuters the U-turn was prompted by fears people could misinterpret the objection as criticism of BLMGNF’s mission. The group was founded after the unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin was shot by the neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in 2012 and rose to prominence during the global movement of protests that followed the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in 2020.
In November 2020, BLMGNF applied for a US trademark for a yellow three-stripe design, which it said could be for use on branded merchandise such as clothing, publications, bags, bracelets and mugs.
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In Monday’s notice of opposition submitted to the trademark office, Adidas said the proposed BLMGNF design “incorporates three stripes in a manner that is confusingly similar to the three-stripe mark in appearance and overall commercial impression”.
The German manufacturer said it had used its three-stripe logo from as early as 1952, and that the design had since gained “international fame and tremendous public recognition”.
The company added that consumers familiar with its goods and services “are likely to assume” that those offered under the applicant’s mark “originate from the same source, or that they are affiliated, connected, or associated with or sponsored by Adidas”.
Adidas has filed more than 90 lawsuits and signed more than 200 settlement agreements related to the three-stripe trademark since 2008.
In January, a New York jury found that the luxury designer Thom Browne’s stripe patterns did not violate Adidas’s trademark rights.
Adidas is struggling financially after warning last month that it could take a revenue hit of €1.2bn (£1bn) and slump to a loss this year if it decides not to sell its remaining stock of products made in collaboration with Kanye West, having cut ties with the rapper over his antisemitic comments.
The company said its decision last year to end the partnership to produce the Yeezy range with West, now known as Ye, will hit operating profits by €500m in 2023.
Adidas said it was still deciding whether it should “repurpose” any of the Yeezy products for sale. The company said that if it decided to scrap all the stock then it would take a further €500m hit to operating profits.