By Gabrielle Sherwood | www.amdlawgroup.com
French designer Christian Louboutin is known for his stilettos with the eye-catching red outsoles. The price of a pair of these shoes starts at around $700 dollars. Currently, the red soles are protected under European Union law. However, in 2012 the controversy over the red bottom trademark ensued. In 2012, Louboutin instituted a trademark infringement lawsuit against Dutch shoemaker Van Haren, who was offering a collection of red-soled high-heeled shoes for sale. Van Haren is now defending suit based on the argument that Louboutin’s existing European trademark is invalid.
Presently, Van Haren seems to be succeeding in their argument that Louboutin’s existing trademark is invalid. On February 6, 2018, Maciej Szpunar, the advocate general of the European Court of Justice said in court: “Mr. Louboutin’s red soles were not a separate entity from the shape of his high-heeled shoes, and shapes typically cannot be trademarked under European Union law.” In effect, Szpunar argued that Mr. Louboutin’s red soles could be refused trademark protection.
So does this mean that Christian Louboutin is going to lose his red sole trademark? Well, the case will be sent back to the Dutch courts to consider. Judges in national courts typically, but not always, follow the advice from the European Court of Justice’s advocates general (Szpunar). So following what we know, there is a possibility that the European red sole trademark will be invalidated. If Louboutin’s European trademark does end up being invalidated, Louboutin would not be able to stop his competitors from selling shoes with red outsoles in Europe. This could seriously reduce the prestige associated with the Louboutin brand. However, Louboutin still has a valid United States trademark on the red outsoles. Therefore, this decision as of now is only going to affect the use of the red outsoles in Europe. If you are in the U.S., your soles are protected.