By Blake Brittain and Helen Reid
(Reuters) -Sportswear maker Adidas AG on Wednesday reversed course 48 hours after asking the U.S. Trademark Office to reject a Black Lives Matter application for a trademark featuring three parallel stripes.
“Adidas will withdraw its opposition to the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation’s trademark application as soon as possible,” the company said in a statement.
Adidas rescinded its opposition without prejudice, which means it could still challenge the trademark on the same grounds in future.
A source close to the company said the rapid about-turn was triggered by concern that people could misinterpret Adidas’ trademark objection as criticism of Black Lives Matter’s mission.
Adidas had told the trademark office in a Monday filing that the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation’s yellow-stripe design so closely resembles its own famous three-stripe mark that it is “likely to cause confusion”.
It sought to block the group’s application to use the design on goods that the German sportswear maker also sells, such as shirts, hats and bags.
Adidas is struggling financially after ending its lucrative Yeezy shoe partnership with Kanye West over antisemitic comments he made on social media and in interviews.
The sportswear firm has also ended its Ivy Park collaboration with Beyoncé according to media reports. Adidas’ contract with the pop star is set to expire at the end of this year.
“LIKELY TO CAUSE CONFUSION”
Adidas said in the filing that it has been using its logo since 1952, and that the Black Lives Matter design could cause confusion, making shoppers think their goods were connected or came from the same source.
The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation is the most prominent entity in the decentralized Black Lives Matter movement, which arose a decade ago in protest against police violence against Black people.
The group applied for a federal trademark in November 2020 covering a yellow three-stripe design to use on a variety of products including clothing, publications, bags, bracelets and mugs.
Representatives of the Black Lives Matter group did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Adidas has filed over 90 lawsuits and signed more than 200 settlement agreements related to the three-stripe trademark since 2008, according to court documents from a lawsuit the company brought against designer Thom Browne’s fashion house.
A jury in that case decided in January that Thom Browne’s stripe patterns did not violate Adidas’ trademark rights.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office declined to comment on how quickly the Black Lives Matter trademark could be registered.
(Reporting by Blake Brittain in Washington and Helen Reid in London;Editing by David Bario, David Holmes, Christina Fincher and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)