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adidas logo and Tesla's previous Model 3 logo
The adidas logo, left, and Tesla’s previous Model 3 logo. (adidas, Tesla Photos)

This post was updated with a comment from Tesla on Wednesday, Feb. 8.

A little over a week ago, Tesla quietly changed the logo for its Model 3 vehicle from three slick lines to the numeral “3.” There was little attention paid to the switch at the time, which looked to be purely stylistic, but recent court filings suggest there might be a more of a kick behind the move.

On Friday, adidas filed a notice with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office challenging Tesla’s use of three lines in its logo. The athleisure giant argued in the filing that the electronic-vehicle’s Model 3 logo was too similar to its own iconic “3-Stripes Mark.”

A Tesla spokesman denied Wednesday that the adidas filing at all influenced the company’s decision to change it’s logo, saying the company withdrew the application based on separate branding decisions.

adidas filed to trademark “the brand with the 3 stripes” in 1990, but the company argues it’s been using the stripes in its logo since as early as 1952. Because adidas sponsors the World Cup and is the “official outfitter” of the NBA, it argues its logo has a high level of visibility. It’s been featured on athletes and celebrities such as Derrick Rose and Katy Perry.

“The renown of the adidas 3-Stripes Mark has been widely recognized in unsolicited media coverage,” the sportswear company argues.

Tesla’s Model 3 logo before and after it was tweaked to a numeral 3. (Tesla Photos)

The filing goes on to say that adidas has spent “hundreds of millions of dollars” promoting its brand under the logo. When Tesla filed for a trademark in August 2016 for a three-stripe logo, adidas said it was “virtually identical” to its own logo. The similarities could hurt the sportswear brand, the filing said, by confusing customers.

“The three-stripe design common to both of Applicant’s Marks so resembles adidas’s 3-Stripes Mark, as to be likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive as to the source, origin or sponsorship of Applicant’s Goods,” the filing reads. “The use and registration of the marks of Applicant’s Applications will erode the association of the 3-Stripes Mark with adidas, lessen the capacity of the 3-Stripes Mark to identify adidas as the source of goods and services to customers and potential customers.”

Tesla hasn’t publicly commented on the filing or confirmed that the adidas challenge is what caused the Model 3 logo switch, but this weekend, Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed on Twitter that the company would change the official Model 3 logo to a numeral.

On Monday, the company filed to withdraw its application for the original logo.

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