The French designer was dealt a blow by the European Union’s highest court today when Advocate General Maciej Szpunar sided with the defendant in a trademark suit Louboutin filed in 2012. At that time, the designer sued Dutch company Van Haren — which operates affordable footwear outlets in The Netherlands — for selling high-heeled women’s shoes with red soles. In 2013, Van Haren was forced to cease production of the shoes in question when the Brussels Court of Appeal ruled in favor of an injunction by Louboutin, finding that the red soles represented a distinctive marker for consumers. (Van Haren has argued that the trademark in question is invalid.)
But, Szpunar said today that a trademark combining color and shape — such as Louboutin’s red-soled pumps — could be refused or declared invalid on the grounds of EU trademark law and sent the case back to Dutch courts for consideration.
While Louboutin has been victorious in trademark litigation in the U.S. — the designer successfully sued YSL in 2012 for trademark infringement — the brand has seen mixed rulings in other regions.
In February 2017, Swiss courts turned down a final appeal by the luxury label to trademark its red-soled heels there, finding that the red soles are merely an aesthetic element. The courts further noted that the fact that the brand has won the battle for trademark status in other markets including China, Australia and Russia did not mean the shoes should receive the same status in Switzerland.
In December, Louboutin was awarded almost 10 lakh rupees ($156,078) in damages and a permanent injunction against two shoe dealers — Kamal Family Footwear and Adra Steps — for infringing on his red-sole trademark in India.
Louboutin has not yet responded to requests for comment.
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