How many stripes arranged in a certain shape can be seen on a pair of Nike pants? The Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court has been dealing with this question since this week. The appeal process opened on Tuesday. The background is a dispute between the sporting goods manufacturers Nike and Adidas.

The three parallel stripes are a well-known Adidas trademark. In 2022, the company went to court again to claim its protection. The trigger was a test purchase made by Adidas in the Nike online shop. Adidas saw several sports trousers that had two or three stripes on the outer seam as being too similar to their own design. The public assumes that the stripes are associated with a reference to the manufacturer, it was said. Adidas complained about a legal violation – initially successfully.

In September 2022, the Düsseldorf Regional Court banned Nike from offering five specific pants within Germany. The US company lodged an objection. A year later, the court upheld the decision, but Nike appealed. From the US company’s point of view, the scope of protection claimed by Adidas is too narrow with regard to the stripe patterns. It is therefore a “very everyday, simple and obvious design form”. Countless companies have always decorated their sports pants with side stripes, argues Nike. Therefore, the stripe decoration does not provide any information about which brand the products are from.

There had been repeated legal disputes over the stripes in the past. In 2019, Adidas lost before the General Court of the European Union. This had decided that Adidas’ three stripes were not protected by trademark law in every form and design. A year earlier, Adidas achieved success. The background at the time was a competitor’s attempt to have shoes with two parallel horizontal stripes protected by the EU Trademark Office. There was already a dispute with Nike in 2005. At that time, Adidas enforced that the US company’s trouser models with a two-stripe marking violated trademark rights and could no longer be sold.