Chicago native, Derrick Rose, has an endorsement deal with Adidas worth $250 million over 14 years. That’s why the recent rejection of Adidas’ trademark application for their brand name Adizero is so interesting. It turns out that Adidas’ trademark application was rejected based on a likelihood of confusion with a registered trademark of a small Chicago area church. The trademark attorney for the church is asking Rose to side with the church in the dispute despite his affiliation with Adidas. This conflict of interest puts Rose in a tough situation.
The Christian Faith Fellowship Church, located in Zions, Illinois is the registered owner of a trademark covering “Add A Zero”. The mark is registered in the class covering clothing. The church adopted the slogan to encourage congregation members to “add a zero” to their donations. It’s a clever marketing idea and one that coincidentally enough sounds an awful lot like Adizero, which Adidas put millions of dollars behind in a marketing campaign. Adidas would also like to use Adizero in conjunction with clothing and that’s why the Trademark Office rejected Adidas’ application.
Because the two trademarks are in the same class and sound similar, the Trademark Office rejected the subsequent Adidas trademark application on likelihood of confusion grounds. One factor the Trademark Office looks at in a likelihood of confusion analysis is the similarity of the marks. Although these two marks are intended for different purposes, the final result of the two is a very similar sounding word. Another factor in the confusion analysis is the similarity of goods. In this case, the goods are identical. This is two big strikes against Adidas in their pursuit for a trademark registration.
Adidas is defending its trademark application and contesting the church’s registration by challenging the use of the mark in commerce, discovering that the church has only sold two shirts carrying the “Add A Zero” mark in the last four years. One requirement to maintain a trademark registration is actually using the mark in commerce. If Adidas can show enough evidence that the church has effectively abandoned the mark by not using it in commerce, it’s possible for the church’s trademark registration to be canceled. Such a cancellation would potentially allow Adidas to register their mark.
Doing so could put Adidas in a pretty bad light. Canceling a church’s trademark registration to help sell t-shirts does not exactly come across as a noble thing to do. And if Derrick Rose sides with the big corporation and turns his back on his hometown, it could be a PR disaster. To this point, Derrick Rose hasn’t commented and maybe it is best if he doesn’t. Crossover dribbles and dunks are his forte, not trademark law and a dispute over a trademark application.
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