Adidas can prevent other companies using two stripes on the shoulders of their shirts, even though Adidas branding has three stripes.
The European Court of Justice ruled that "the mere fact that the relevant section of the public establishes a link between the two is sufficient". The case was brought in the Netherlands by Adidas against C&A, H&M, Marca Mode and Vendex.
The long history and reputation of Adidas appears to have been a factor. Lawyers say that other manufacturers may struggle to take advantage of this ruling, because few types of branding have as long a history and reputation as Adidas' three stripes.
"They're trying to distinguish a distinctive logo, such as the Nike swoosh, against a non-distinctive brand such as three stripes," said Gary Assim, head of intellectual property at Shoosmiths Solicitors.
"But the three stripes have built up distinctiveness. Its reputation spans 70-odd years, so it's difficult not to associate three stripes with Adidas."
Adidas welcomed the ruling and stressed that it was not trying to prevent all use of stripes.
"We do not seek to prevent the use of decoration, but the use of striped markings that confuse consumers, or cause them to make a link with our company," Anne Putz from Adidas told the BBC.
The court confirmed that what was important was whether consumers associated another company's clothing with the Adidas brand, not how similar the designs looked.
"The national court must determine whether the average consumer may be mistaken as to the origin of sports and leisure garments featuring stripe motifs in the same places and with the same characteristics as the stripes motif of Adidas, except for the fact that they consist of two rather than three stripes," the ruling said.