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Christian Louboutin trade mark legal action

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A ruling from the European Union Court of Justice (CJEU) earlier this year has confirmed that a distinctive design element commonly found in shoes from high-end designer Christian Louboutin is a valid trade mark registration.


The case, which began back in 2012, cantered on the red sole design that Louboutin often uses on its women’s shoe range. Another shoe producer, Dutch firm Van Haren, had also started producing shoes with a red sole, resulting in Louboutin taking legal action at the District Court in the Hague for trade mark infringement.

Christian Louboutin, a French designer and manufacturer famous for expensive, premium-quality stiletto shoes, was successful with the initial District Court proceedings. However, Van Haren then challenged Louboutins red sole trade mark protection under Article 3(1)(e)(iii) of Directive 2008/95/EC, which states:

3(1) The following shall not be registered or, if registered, shall be liable to be declared invalid:
(e) signs which consist exclusively of:
(iii) the shape which gives substantial value to the goods.”

The Hague Court the approached the EU Court of Justice for clarification as to whether the red sole qualified as a trade mark, or whether it was (‘exclusively’) a shape that gave ‘substantial value’ to the product and would therefore be excluded from registered trade mark protection.

The CJEU’s decision was that the red sole did not comprise a shape and that accordingly, it did qualify as a trade mark. A key element of the decision was the fact that Louboutin's trade mark (depicted with broken lines) has the following disclaimer in its description:

The trademark consists of the colour red (Pantone 18.1663TP) applied to the sole of a shoe as shown (the outline of the shoe is therefore not part of the trademark but serves to show the positioning of the trademark).”

If you are thinking about taking legal action against another individual or company but are worried about the costs involved, Advantage Litigation Services have the skills and expertise to help you find a way of funding commercial litigation without risking your personal finances or those of your business. Click here to contact us today or call 0800 160 1298 to see how we can help.

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