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Athleta Sues Similarly Named European Athleisure Brand

Athleta is suing a Danish apparel company for using the name Athlecia to sell women’s activewear.

The complaint, filed Wednesday, accused Sports Group Denmark A/S—a business that designs, produces and distributes apparel, footwear and accessories under more than two dozen brands, including Athlecia—of trademark infringement, unfair competition and false designation of origin.

The Gap-owned brand argued that the Athlecia name is “highly similar” to its own, noting that they both consist of three syllables, begin with the letters A, T, H, L and E and end in the letter A. It also contended that Sports Group Denmark stylizes Athlecia similar to how Athleta styles its own name: in capitalized letters and a sans-serif font.

Additionally, the lawsuit accuses the Danish company of infringing on Athleta’s trademarked pinwheel logo. Like Athleta, Athlecia uses a circular logo. The former consists of a series of triangles—sometimes within a larger circle—that together gives the impression of a pinwheel. Athlecia’s logo features a pattern of ovals within a circle. Athleta categorized it as a “circular pinwheel.”

According to the complaint, Sports Group Denmark began to market Athlecia “at some point in 2020.” Athlecia’s Instagram page includes posts dating back to January 2018. A timeline on Sports Group Denmark’s website claims the brand Endurance Athlecia—it features the same circle logo as Athlecia—was “born” in May 2017.

Athleta included in its lawsuit a collage of images depicting Athlecia's logo.
Athleta included in its lawsuit a collage of images depicting Athlecia’s logo. Athleta

Like Athleta, it sells athletic apparel and clothing, including sports bras, tights, sweaters, tops, pants and socks. On June 30 last year, it filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to trademark Athlecia’s name and circular logo.

Athleta argued Sports Group Denmark willfully and in bad faith infringed on its marks with the intent to trade on their “goodwill and cachet.” The use of these marks, it added, is likely to deceive consumers into “falsely believing” Athlecia’s goods are associated or endorsed by Athleta. This conduct “is causing irreparable injury” to the Gap brand’s goodwill and reputation, it said.

The complaint asks that the court enjoin Sports Group Denmark from using the Athlecia marks and direct it to destroy all related products, advertisements and other materials.

The lawsuit comes less than two months after a Barclays analyst released a report floating the idea of Gap spinning off Athleta. As the report circulated through the investment community and sparked speculation of activist investors, Gap’s share price briefly shot up to $15.35. It has since fallen to $10.84.