Louboutin wins EU court bat­tle over shoes

The Phnom Penh Post - - BUSINESS - Danny Kemp

FRENCH luxury shoe de­signer Chris­tian Louboutin won the sup­port of Europe’s high­est court on Tues­day over trade­mark­ing his sig­na­ture red- soled high-heeled shoes.

Louboutin took Dutch shoe­maker Van Haren to court in the Netherlands af­ter Van Haren sold sim­i­lar shoes, and the case was then re­ferred to the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice.

Paris-based Louboutin has mar­keted the red-bot­tomed shoes for more than a quar­ter of a cen­tury and the glam footwear was fea­tured on the con­sumerism-wor­ship­ping tele­vi­sion se­ries Sex and the City.

“I can con­firm that Louboutin won the case. The Dutch com­pany has to re­spect the trade­mark,” a spokesper­son for the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice, the bloc’s top court, said.

The French shoe­maker hailed the de­ci­sion as a “vic­tory for the Mai­son Chris­tian Louboutin”.

The years-long, ar­cane le­gal dis­pute cen­tred on whether Louboutin’s trade­mark in­volved a shape or a colour un­der Euro­pean Union law.

Louboutin filed a trade­mark in 2010 and then took the Dutch com­pany to court when it started sell­ing high-heeled red-soled women’s shoes in 2012 at its out­lets in the Netherlands.

The Dutch com­pany ar­gued that Euro­pean reg­u­la­tions say shapes by them­selves can­not be reg­is­tered as trademarks, and the Dutch court re­ferred the is­sue to the ECJ.

Louboutin ar­gued that the use of a colour – specif­i­cally in this case a red pig­ment called Pan­tone 18 1663TP – can be trade­marked. It added too that the “shape” in ques­tion was just a way of show­ing where the colour is lo­cated on the bot­tom of the shoe.

‘Clear vic­tory’

Judges in Lux­em­bourg on Tues­day re­jected the of­fi­cial ad­vice of their own top lawyer, who said in Fe­bru­ary that the red soles could not be trade­marked.

Dutch judges must now make a fi­nal de­ci­sion but the Louboutin com­pany wel­comed the de­ci­sion.

“It’s a clear vic­tory and a great sat­is­fac­tion,” a Louboutin spokes­woman said.

The French shoe­maker said that the EU court had “con­firmed that the le­gal regime gov­ern­ing shape trademarks does not ap­ply to Chris­tian Louboutin’s ‘red sole’ mark.

“The red colour ap­plied on the sole of a woman’s high heel shoe is a posi- tion mark, as Mai­son Chris­tian Louboutin has main­tained for many years. Mai­son Chris­tian Louboutin warmly wel­comes this judge­ment.”

Louboutin has faced a se­ries of le­gal bat­tles over its dis­tinc­tive soles.

A Paris ap­peals court in May ruled against the French shoe com­pany Kess­lord af­ter it sold red-bot­tomed shoes and or­dered it to pay 7,500 eu­ros in dam­ages to Louboutin.

“The ECJ has, in the same way as the Paris ap­peals court, ruled that the ap­pli­ca­tion of a colour in a spe­cific po­si­tion on a prod­uct is a dis­tinct and pro­tected trade­mark,” Vanessa Bouchara, an in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty lawyer, said.

In 2012 a US court also said that Louboutin could trade­mark the red soles, re­vers­ing an ear­lier rul­ing that would have al­lowed ri­val Yves Saint Lau­rent to paint its out­soles scar­let. But one year be­fore that Louboutin lost a sep­a­rate case in France against the Span­ish cloth­ing chain Zara.

MIGUEL ME­D­INA/AFP

A model wears Louboutin shoes dur­ing Olympia Le Tan 2015-2016 fall/win­ter readyto-wear col­lec­tion fash­ion show in Paris, on March 7, 2015.

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