Decision against Dutch firm is key victory for brand in long-running trademark battle
Christian Louboutin has won a key legal case in a long-running battle to protect its signature red soles from copycats.
On Tuesday, the European court of justice (ECJ) ruled vanHaren, a Dutch company, had infringed the brand’s trademark by selling a range of red-soled shoes.
Louboutin, whose shoes start at £500 for a classic black court, are staple footwear for the world’s most famous women, with celebrities ranging from Kendall Jenner and Rihanna to Melania Trump seen wearing his skyscraper heels.
The eponymous brand’s scarlet soles date back to 1992, when the fashion designer painted a sole red with nail varnish borrowed from an assistant.
The legal case centred on European trademark law that forbids the registration of shapes where they add substantial value to goods.
In February, Louboutin appeared to suffer a setback when the ECJ advocate general Maciej Szpunar said the combination of a colour and shape could be refused trademark protection.
But in the ruling on Tuesday, the court noted Louboutin was not seeking to protect the shape of a shoe, merely the application of a colour to a specific part of it.
Elaine O’Hare, an intellectual property specialist at the law firm Stevens & Bolton, said: “The ECJ has not followed the recent recommendation of the advocate general and has instead ruled that Louboutin’s red soles can in fact be protected as a trademark.
“The case will now go back before the Dutch court, but it seems likely that Louboutin will be allowed to develop a monopoly for red-soled high-heeled shoes.”
In a statement, Louboutin said: “For 26 years, the red sole has enabled the public to attribute the origin of the shoe to its creator, Cheap 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.”