French shoemaker Christian Louboutin, famous for his stiletto heels, has suffered a severe setback in his battle to protect the trademark red sole.
The fashion designer, whose shoes start at £500 for a classic black court and are a favourite with celebrities such as Kate Winslet, Victoria Beckham and Margot Robbie, has been in court trying to protect the signature red colour of the sole of his shoes – a look that dates back to 1992, when Louboutin painted a sole red with nail varnish borrowed from an assistant.
The French designer went to court in the Netherlands to prevent the Dutch high street shoe chain VanHaren from selling its own red-soled shoes, in a range endorsed by actor Halle Berry. VanHaren argued the existing Louboutin trademark was invalid.
The case was referred to the ECJ in 2014.
Sanjay Kapur, partner and trade mark attorney at intellectual property firm Potter Clarkson LLP, said: “If the ECJ follow the advocate general’s opinion, then this could mean that Louboutin would not be able to stop its competitors, including haute couture fashion houses, from offering shoes with red soles. The red sole could therefore become ubiquitous, which would seriously reduce the cachet associated with the Louboutin brand.”
Elaine O’Hare of law firm Stevens & Bolton said the case would be of “great interest” to other luxury fashion brands seeking to protect their own signature shapes or colours.
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