Mr. Herrick, in evidence, said he was capped three times for Ireland and had played League of Ireland football with Cork Hibernians, Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk, Limerick and Galway. He had worked in a sports shop in Cornmarket Street, Cork, for four years up to 1975 and in the past decade he had noticed a change of design by manufacturers. Stripes and design had become more fashionable.
He believed manufacturers had adopted this change so that the different fashions would have a visual impact on television viewers and spectators at different sporting fixtures, and encourage them to buy particular sporting or leisure gear.
Since he first purchased a pair of football boots in Cork in 1964, he always associated the three stripes on sports gear with Adidas. Both Adidas and O’Neill had supplied team strips for Galway Rovers over the past two years and he thought that the gear the team had got from O’Neills this year had three very prominent stripes.
Mr Michael O’Connor [PITJ note: Michael O'Connell], managing director of the Irish distributor of Adidas goods, Three Stripe International Ltd, Cork, said that 85pc of Gaelic teams in Ireland used Adidas footwear.
Jerseys in the colours of the various GAA clubs were being manufactured for Adidas in Donegal to comply with GAA rules and it was hoped to promote these amongst GAA county and club teams. His company, he said, had supplied 50pc of the League of Ireland teams with their strip.
Limerick’s All-Ireland hurling star, Bernard Hartigan, said that apart from playing intercounty hurling for 13 seasons he was also a hammer and discus thrower. He had competed in the European team championships in 1973, ’75 and ’77. In international events he was supplied with Adidas vests and shorts and he had purchased his own Adidas throwing shoes. He was aware that three stripes indicated Adidas products since the 1960’s when he saw pictures of international athletes.
Eamon O’Connor of Cork Regional College and secretary of the Munster Squash Association, said he had bought a track suit in Cork around 1977 thinking it was an Adidas product. It had three white stripes. When he went back to complain about a defect in it he was told that the track suit was manufactured by O’Neills.
Rugby international Mike Gibson and Noel Carroll, who represented Ireland in the Olympics in Tokyo and Mexico, in evidence, said they associated the three stripes with Adidas sports wear.
Herr Gassdoff, export manager of Adidas, whose head office is in Hamburg, said that Adidas established their distinctive mark of three stripes in the European Cup football competition of 1967 when a German club won for the first time. In the 1968 Olympic games almost 80pc of all medal winners wore the Adidas strip. The hearing continues today.
The Irish Press, Friday, April 18, 1980
Sports stars and stripes in High Court
Leading figures in the sports world, including rugby international, Mike Gibson; Galway Rovers’ player manager John Herrick, and Limerick All-Ireland hurling star, Bernard Hartigan [PITJ note: Pat Hartigan], gave evidence in the High Court yesterday in a case involving sporting gear manufacture and markings.
It was the second day of the hearing of an action by Mr. Justice McWilliam brought by the West German sports clothes and equipment manufacturers, Adidas against Charles O’Neill and Co., wholesale sports goods manufacturers, Dublin, for the alleged passing-off of their products as those of Adidas by the use of the Adidas three-stripe mark.
In their defence, O’Neills deny the Adidas claims and plead that in 1965 they commenced manufacturing sports goods for the Irish market including a three-stripe design. Their sports clothing bore the company disc or a circle surrounding the name “O’Neills”.
Court number 8 in the Four Courts resembled a sportswear shop as boxes and plastic bags containing sport and leisure wear such as track suits, team strips, football and training shoes, handed in as exhibits by both parties in the case, were banked up high on the bench both sides of the judge.
Included were the Manchester United team strip, and the Galway Rovers AFC maroon jersey with striped collar and cuffs stated by the player-manager of the team, former Irish soccer international, John Herrick, to be similar to the Galway GAA team’s strip.
Irish Independent, Saturday, July 3, 1982
Sport firm runs away with court battle
A Dublin sportswear firm yesterday won the final round of a marathon battle against an arch West German rival over sports gear markings. The Supreme Court decided the three-stripe markings on Adidas sports wear had not been “lifted” by the city firm of O’Neills.
Adidas had taken its battle over its three stripes to the court after it lost its claim in the High Court. Yesterday it lost again when the Supreme Court decided by a majority of two to one of its judges that O’Neill’s, one of the country’s biggest sports wear manufacturers, had not been passing off its goods as Adidas products.
In its judgment the High Court had held the use by O’Neills of the three stripe mark did not confuse or deceive the public into believing that they were Adidas goods and that Adidas did not enjoy for a substantoial [sic] number of years within the State an exclusive trading reputation in sports clothing bearing the three-stripe mark.
Adidas had sought an injunction restraining O’Neills from passing off its goods as those of Adidas as well as damages for passing off. The Chief Justice, Mr. Justice O’Higgins, said the fact that Adidas had projected over the years it products with the three-stripe design in every advertising medium did not give it title to complain if a trader attracted by the design, or susceptible to the fashion which its prominence created, decided to copy, or imitate. Copying was not of itself sufficient to support an action for passing-off if the trader sufficiently distinguished his goods so confusion was not created.
Mr. Justice Henchy, in a minority judgment, said there was ample and uncontroverted evidence that custom intended for Adidas was being deceptively diverted to the defendants, and that the cause was the passing off of Adidas’s garments of garments with the Adidas get-up, manufactured for the defendants with that get-up. Because it was calculated to damage the goodwill of Adidas, it was a wrongful filching from Adidas of trade intended by the customer for Adidas.
The misrepresentation was emphasised by the fact that defendants could have manufactured with impunity garments with any other arrangement of three stripes. One was drawn to the conclusion that in choosing to use the particular arrangement of three stripes they intended to capture part of the Adidas goodwill.
Irish Press, April 23, 1980
Sports firms treated badly court is told
The managing director of a wholesale sports goods manufacturers in Dublin, Mr. Paul O’Neill, stated in the High Court in Dublin yesterday that his company, Charles O’Neill and Co. Ltd., was treated badly by the West German firm Adidas in not being given their Irish distribution agency in 1970.
Mr. O’Neill was under cross-examination on the fourth day of the hearing of an action by the sports, textile and equipment manufacturers Adidas, who are suing O’Neills allegedly for passing-off their products as those of Adidas by the use of the Adidas three-stripe mark.
In their defence O’Neills deny the claims and pleas that in 1965 they began manufacturing sports good for the Irish market, which included a three-stripe design. Their sports clothing also bore the company emblem of a disc with the name “O’Neills”.
Mr. O’Neill said that in the 1960s Mr. John Humphries, who was distribution agent for Adidas in Britain, suggested to him that O’Neills might operate a joint-venture with Adidas for the supply of Adidas wear in Ireland.
This came to nothing because of the import restrictions at the time. Even if O’Neills had got the agency they could not import the goods then. The question of the agency came up again when he wrote to Mr. Humphreys telling him that the quota restrictions would be lifted in 1970. On hearing from Mr. Humphreys that Michael O’Connell of Westgate Road, Bishopstown, Cork, has been appointed Irish distributor of Adidas, he replied that was a deplorable decision by Adidas.
Mr. Humphries expressed disappointment to Mr. O’Neill that he had failed to get the agency and said he had found out in a ’phone call that Mr. O’Connell had a five-year contract with Adidas. Mr. O’Neill said that his company decided to use three stripes because it was fashionable and it looked very well on a garment. There was also a demand for three stripes. His company made garments with stripes in the 1960s.
He said they had to drop their symbol of jerseys and track suits used by teams in All-Ireland semi-finals and All-Ireland finals at Croke Park, because of GAA rules against advertising. They replaced the symbol with a “G” mark. For the past 18 months they were permitted to use the O’Neill symbol on such occasions. Robert Moore, sales representative in Dublin for O’Neills, said that when he joined the company in 1968 stripes were being put on the side of sports shorts according to customers’ requirements.
Since 1973/74 stripes on the sides of vests and shorts were the popular demand. No complaint had ever been made to him that there was confusion between Adidas and O’Neills’ goods. The hearing will be continued today.
Irish Press, Thursday, April 24, 1980
Judgment is reserved in Adidas case
Judgment was reserved by Mr. Justice McWilliam in the High Court in Dublin yesterday in the action brought by the West German sports goods manufacturers, Adidas against Charles O’Neill & Co. Ltd., of Capel Street, Dublin, in which they are seeking an injunction restraining O’Neills from using a stripe insignia on their sports wear which Adidas claim is an exclusive trade design.
The German company claims that its products have been distinguished since 1952 by the use of three parallel coloured stripes and that O’Neills had begun to manufacture products with an identical or similar three-stripe design and had created confusion in the minds of the public as to the origin of O’Neill’s goods.
O’Neills, in their defence, deny that they ever passed off their goods as those of Adidas, or that they intended to do so.
They say that their goods bear the company’s symbol, in which the word “O’Neills” appears, and that the items of clothing when sold are contained in the packaging clearly bearing the company’s name. Yesterday was the fifth day of the trial in the course of which a number of well-known sporting personalities gave evidence.
Mr. Hanebry, a sports goods shop owner in Tralee, gave evidence of having several types of track suits in stock made by different manufacturers, many of them carrying stripes. Some had two, three and four stripes. Customers normally went for colour and price, while the fit was very important where the ladies were concerned. He was familiar with the O’Neills tracksuits, which he stocked.
There was no possibility, in his opinion, that a customer would think it was an Adidas product. O’Neills had a disc in from which clearly stated that it was O’Neills.
“I never had an incident of confusion,” said Mr. Hanebry, who said he had stopped selling Adidas goods in 1977. Mr. Murray McGrath, S.C. for O’Neills said: “Are stripes used by persons purchasing track suits as a method of distinguishing between one tracksuit and another?
Mr. Hanebry –I don’t think stripes are relevant at all. I have three, four or five brands, nearly all having stripes of one kind or another. Some are very similar.
He produced an English-made Europa track suit, which he said had three stripes.
“If I saw these garments on somebody in the distance and if I could not see the logo (emblem on breast), I could not tell who made them,” he said.
Television commentator Jimmy Magee, giving evidence for O’Neills, said that all that the stripes signified was a style fashionable at present.