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While tennis players battled on the courts of Wimbledon’s All England Lawn Tennis Club last week, a different sort of court battle has been growing in the Court of Chancery in London. The legal dispute has sprung up over how large a corporate logo on tennis togs may grow before the officials of the Grand Slam Committee consider players walking billboards. The first round ended in favor of German sportswear maker Adidas A.G. in June. Adidas said it didn’t have enough time to adapt its design for Wimbledon’s June 26 start and was granted a temporary injunction against the size restriction. Adidas-Solomon A.G. v. Drape & Ors [2006] EWHC 1318(ch) (2006). The injunction prevents officials of the Lawn Tennis Association, which runs Wimbledon, the International Tennis Federation and the U.S. Tennis Association from limiting the triple stripe logo on sleeves and pant legs to a mere 2 square inches for both Wimbledon and the upcoming U.S. Open. But the tussling began two years ago at the Athens Olympics, when sports equipment makers Nike, Reebok, Pentland and Puma complained to the International Olympic Committee that Adidas’ three-stripe design went beyond the limited logo size. Nike argued that the three-stripe motif constituted a manufacturer’s standard logo under the rules and should be limited. Olympic officials ultimately told Adidas that its logo would be limited in the next winter games. And in June 2005 the ITF said that Adidas’ three-stripes design constitutes a logo and would be limited. Adidas argues its stripes are not just a logo but part of the design of shoes, shirts and pants. It also argues that the ITF ruling violates E.U. law and is discriminatory. But the governing bodies of tennis, affecting the U.S. Open, Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, have ruled that the Adidas design amounts to a logo that is subject to size limits. The dispute is set for trial in October. Among the legal players who will be in the high court in London are New York-based Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, representing the U.S. Tennis Association and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton of New York for the Lawn Tennis Association. Pamela A. MacLean is a reporter with The National Law Journal, a Recorder affiliate based in New York City.

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