Designer Louboutin wins legal fight to prevent red sole copycats

Irving Hamilton
June 13, 2018

"For 26 years, the red sole has enabled the public to attribute the origin of the shoe to its creator, Christian Louboutin".

The case will go back to a Dutch court which had sought the European Union tribunal's advice in a dispute between the French fashion designer and a Dutch retail shoe shop that started selling red-soled women's shoes, arguing that Louboutin should never have gotten a trademark protection in the first place.

The Frenchman is in a legal battle with Dutch high street chain Van Haren who had been selling their own version of red-soled shoes.

The chain had argued that European Union law bars the trademarking of products with common shapes, like shoes.

However, the court has gone against the recommendations of the advocate general and found in favour of the French brand.

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Under EU law, shapes can not be registered as trademarks and Van Haren argued that the soles of shoes are therefore not trademarked. Nevertheless, Christian Louboutin said in a statement today that it expects the court to confirm the validity of the mark fairly quickly. Dutch judges referred the case to the EU's top courts for clarification on the bloc's trademark laws. "[The company] warmly welcomes this judgement".

In 2012, it won a similar case in the US. The courts further noted that the fact that the brand has won the battle for trademark status in other markets, including China, Australia and Russian Federation, did not mean the shoes should receive the same status in Switzerland.

Louboutin's lawyers argued, on the contrary, that the trademark consisted of "the color red [Pantone 18-1663 TP] applied to the sole of a shoe", regardless of the shape of the sole.

"The ruling is very short, which is very rare, and it's very clear. This decision is beyond appeal".

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