On February 6, 2019, French shoe designer Maison Christian Louboutin struck a victory in The Hague District Court against high street shoe brand Van Haren over the protection of the red soles on their shoes.  The case in the Netherlands dates back to 2012, and follows a June 2018 decision, previously reported in the E-TIPS® Newsletter here, from the European Court of Justice that held that Louboutin's claim that the use of a specific shade of red on the underside of its shoes constitutes a recognizable characteristic of the brand.  Van Haren’s argument centred on the EU law that companies cannot trademark common shapes such as the soles of shoes. The European Court of Justice held, and the Hague District Court agreed, that this did not apply because Louboutin’s red sole trademark does not primarily consist of a shape and thus is not a shape mark.  In its judgment in favour of Louboutin, The Hague District Court ordered Van Haren to stop selling high-heeled shoes with red soles.

This is not the first time the iconic red bottoms, which designer Louboutin incorporated into his designs over 25 years ago, after taking a co-worker's red nail polish and painting the shoe's sole red, has been at the heart of litigation throughout the world.  The designer prevailed over another major French fashion design house Yves Saint Laurent in New York in 2012, but lost a similar case in Switzerland in 2017.  The company has also seen its red-soled designs protected in markets such as China, Australia and Russia.

A judgment on compensation to Christian Louboutin from Van Haren will be issued at a later stage.

Summary By: Hashim Ghazi

E-TIPS® ISSUE

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