Adidas Withdraws Opposition to Black Lives Matter Trademark

Two days after Adidas objected to a trademark application by the advocacy group Black Lives Matter for a logo featuring three parallel stripes, the German sportswear company said that it would withdraw its opposition.

Adidas challenged the trademark application in a filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Monday. On Wednesday, the company said in an emailed statement that it would withdraw its opposition “as soon as possible.”

In the filing on Monday, Adidas said that it opposed the Black Lives Matter application because it showed a trademark that “incorporates three stripes in a manner that is confusingly similar” to the company’s familiar three-stripe logo “in appearance and overall commercial impression.”

The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation filed the trademark application for a yellow three-stripe logo design in November 2020. The group is one of several organizations associated with the wider Black Lives Matter movement, which emerged in 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin, a Black teenager.

The foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In its statement, Adidas did not say why it was reversing its opposition to the trademark application.

In September 2022, the window opened for individuals and groups to file their opposition to the foundation’s trademark application. Adidas repeatedly sought to extend the window before submitting its notice of opposition on Monday, according to the filing.

Adidas said that it had been using a three-stripe mark on footwear since at least 1952 and that the design had been used in its partnerships with professional athletes, including Lionel Messi, James Harden and Patrick Mahomes. The company said the three-stripe logo had also been used in its collaborations with and sponsorships of celebrities, including Beyoncé, Selena Gomez and Bad Bunny.

In the filing, the company said that the public understood that the three-stripe mark “distinguishes and identifies Adidas’s merchandise.”

This short-lived trademark battle comes after a failed attempt by Adidas to challenge the fashion designer Thom Browne, who the company said used stripes in his designs in a way that was too similar to the Adidas stripes. In January, a federal jury in Manhattan ruled against Adidas.

In 2020, when global Black Lives Matter protests took place after George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer, Adidas made several commitments to its Black employees. The company said at the time that 30 percent of new hires would be Black or Latino, and it pledged to invest in programs that benefited the Black community. Some employees said then that Adidas’s promises lacked an explicit acknowledgment of how the company had treated Black employees.

A year earlier, a New York Times investigation found that the relatively few Black employees at the company’s North American headquarters in Portland, Ore., often felt marginalized and sometimes discriminated against. The investigation found that in 2018 only 4.5 percent of the 1,700 employees at the company’s Portland campus identified as Black and that only about 1 percent of the more than 300 worldwide vice presidents were Black.

More recently, Adidas has been dealing with the aftermath of its messy split from Kanye West in October, after he made a series of antisemitic remarks and embraced white supremacist tropes. Adidas was criticized for not being quick enough to cut ties with Mr. West, who is now known as Ye.

The company said in a statement that Ye’s “recent comments and actions have been unacceptable, hateful and dangerous, and they violate the company’s values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness.”

In March, Bjorn Gulden, who took over as chief executive of Adidas in January, declared that 2023 would be a “transition year” for the company. Adidas has been losing its market share to rivals, such as Nike, and in February it issued its fourth profit warning in six months, saying it expected big losses this year.

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