Recently, there was a trademark spat between Adidas and Tesla. The story piqued my interest because the big players make mistakes that are instructive for small businesses (only on a grander scale)—and because it illustrates the importance of brand identity and underscores why it’s smart to register your mark. In a nutshell, here’s what happened: Tesla filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to register its Model 3, three-bar logo as a trademark.
If the registration had been for the purpose of using the mark on a car, there would not have been a problem. BUT, Tesla registered to use its three-bar “E” on clothing. Adidas, a company known for rigorous policing of its brand identity, challenged Tesla’s right to register the mark as confusingly similar to the Adidas three-bar logo. Tesla withdrew its application. Adidas protected its three-bar brand identity.
I’m not sure what Tesla was thinking here. Although Tesla uses a three-bar “E” in its name on cars, Tesla’s logo identity is its inimitable “T.”
Tesla’s brand identity is well established. The “T” works as a logo on clothing, just as well as 3 bars, and it is uniquely and distinctively Tesla. With a little foresight, Tesla could have saved themselves a ton of time, money and energy by sticking with its brand.
My advice to Tesla: stick with your own cool. Zero Emissions. Zero Compromises. Leave the Nothing to someone else.
 Adidas’ slogan is “Impossible is Nothing.”