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H&M wins long-running trademark dispute with Adidas

Trademark owners in Colorado and around the country sometimes find themselves embroiled in legal battles with infringers that drag on for years, but few of them last as long as the dispute between Adidas and H&M. The case began in 1997 when Adidas filed a lawsuit against the Swedish clothing company over allegedly infringing merchandise, and it was finally resolved in favor of H&M on Jan. 28.

The German sportswear manufacturer took action because H&M launched a line of clothing featuring sleeves and sides with two parallel lines. Adidas claimed that these items infringed on its iconic three-stripe trademark. The District Court of the Hague examined the branding elements and ruled in favor of Adidas, which prompted H&M to file an appeal. During the next two decades, arguments were made by attorneys representing the two companies in the Breda District Court, the Court of Appeal of 's-Hertogenbosch, the Court of Justice of the European Union and the Supreme Court of the Netherlands.

The Supreme Court also ruled in favor of Adidas, but H&M emerged victorious when the Hague Court of Appeal finally put an end to the bitter trademark dispute. Adidas founder Adolf Dassler registered the three-stripe logo 70 years ago, and the company has fiercely protected it ever since. Other clothing manufacturers that have been accused by Adidas of infringing on its iconic trademark include Puma, Forever 21, Sketchers and J.Crew.

This twists and turns in this case reveal how unpredictable intellectual property lawsuits often are and how difficult and expensive they can be to litigate. Attorneys with experience in this area may seek to avoid protracted legal battles by taking decisive action before infringers have invested heavily in production and marketing. When attempts to resolve disputes amicable are unsuccessful, attorneys could suggest exploring less adversarial alternatives to court such as mediation or arbitration.

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