Christian Louboutin wins landmark case to trademark red sole
The designer is victorious after winning support of the European Court
Acclaimed French shoe designer Christian Louboutin has won a long-running legal battle within The Court of Justice of the European Union to trademark his distinctive red sole – donned on red carpets the world over. On 13 June the judges ruled in favour of the French luxury brand as the trial, which began in the Netherlands back in 2012, came to a head. The new trademark covers the Benelux region which includes Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.
Louboutin sued Dutch high street brand Van Haren for featuring its own version of the red lacquered finish – similar to the style made globally famous by Louboutin – as part of a fashion collaboration with Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry. The case was referred to the European Court of Justice by the District Court of The Hague in 2014.
EU law states that companies cannot trademark common shapes of products and so Van Haren argued that applying red to a shoe sole came under this law. Ultimately the European Court of Justice decided this rule did not apply to Louboutin’s red heel, which is created using a distinctive red pigment called Pantone 18 1663TP.
The court said in a statement: ‘The mark does not relate to a specific shape of sole for high-heeled shoes since the description of that mark explicitly states that the contour of the shoe does not form part of the mark and is intended purely to show the positioning of the red colour covered by the registration.”
A spokesperson for Christian Louboutin said the brand "warmly welcomes" the victory. "For 26 years, the red sole has enabled the public to attribute the origin of the shoe to its creator, Christian Louboutin. This case will now be referred back to The Hague Court which is expected to confirm the validity of the red sole trademark," said a statement from the company.
‘The red colour applied on the sole of a woman's high heel shoe is a position mark, as Maison Christian Louboutin has maintained for many years." Louboutin pioneered its very first red soled shoe in 1993, when the designer applied the hue using an assistant’s nail polish. The style has been regularly donned by the world's top celebrities including Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez ever since.