Hot on the heels

A recent decision involves the couture shoe designer, Christian Louboutin.

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A recent decision involves the couture shoe designer, Christian Louboutin.

Whilst not strictly involving heels, the case did involve what is considered to be an integral part of the Louboutin design, namely the red soles of their shoes. For those who are unfamiliar with expensive high heeled shoes, the red soles go back to 1992 when the designer first painted the soles of their shoes red with nail varnish.

Louboutin has been locked in a long running legal battle with a Dutch firm over the use of the red soles. They argued that the use of red soles was an infringement of their trademark.

The case was heard recently by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which ruled that the Dutch company had infringed Louboutin’s trademark. The case is important because it revolved around European trademark law which does not permit the registration of copyright protection for shapes where they add substantial value to goods. The ECJ accepted that Louboutin was not seeking to protect the shape of a shoe but merely the addition of a specific colour to part of a shoe.

In a statement, Louboutin said: 'For 26 years, the red sole has enabled the public to attribute the origin of the shoe to its creator, Christian Louboutin.

This case will now be referred back to The Hague court, which is expected to confirm the validity of the red sole trademark.'

It is fair to say that high-end design will not affect most businesses – but the case is a reminder of the importance of considering trademark registration to protect your brand.

It is possible to trademark a product or service and once registered you will be able to:

  • Take legal action against anyone who uses your brand without your consent
  • Put the ® symbol next to your brand which demonstrates that the brand is yours and warns others against using it
  • Sell and license your brand.

This can be an important way to protect your business.

To discuss this or any other trademark or copyright issue, contact us.

Members: Simon Shaw, Elizabeth Rimell and Janice Leyland.
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