Christian Louboutin is walking tall today after the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) effectively confirmed the validity of his red sole trademark for women’s high-heeled shoes.
In response to a referral from a court in the Netherlands, the CJEU determined that the mark was not merely “a shape which gives substantial value to the goods” — and thus not registrable under EU law — but instead a specific color placed in a particular position on the products. The case will now go back to the court in the Netherlands, presumably for a ruling in favor of Louboutin and against Van Haren Schoenen, which allegedly sold infringing footwear back in 2012.
This decision was a victory not only for Louboutin but also for common sense, since the court based its decision on the simple understanding that the word “shape” refers to the outline or contour of a product, not its color. Louboutin does not claim the various shapes of the soles of shoes as trademarks; instead, the trademark consists of the color Pantone 18-1663TP applied to the soles of shoes.
While the CJEU decision in favor of Louboutin might seem like a shoe-in, the court actually went against an advocate general’s opinion from back in February, which advised that color should not be considered apart from shape — a determination that led many to assume incorrectly that Louboutin’s Benelux (that is, Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg) trademark had been or was about to be canceled.
Christian Louboutin’s signature soles are in fact stronger than ever, and the owners of color and position marks all over Europe have an extra spring in their step.