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Louboutin hits back in red soles battle

Luxury French shoe brand Christian Louboutin has hit back at reports it has suffered a setback in its battle to protect its trademark red soles.

Earlier this week, the European Court of Justice’s advocate general, Maciej Szpunar, said the combination of a colour and shape may be refused trademark protection. Louboutin is attempting to stop Dutch footwear retailer VanHaren from selling a line of shoes with red soles.

In a lengthy statement, the brand argued Szpunar’s comments have been misinterpreted.

“While ordinarily Christian Louboutin does not comment directly on pending matters, we are making an exception in this instance to correct what appears to be misleading reports of the opinion of M. Szpunar, advocate general, which is seen to impact our trademark adversely. We disagree.

“The summaries of M. Szpunar’s opinion do not correctly reflect his view. The recent news seems to focus on M. Szpunar’s views that the combination of a color and a shape may be refused trademark protection. However, a close reading of the full opinion of M. Szpunar in fact supports trademark protection for our famous red sole, rather than threatening it.”

The shoe brand goes on to highlight that advocate general Szpunar in his statement says that: ”The concept of a shape which ‘gives substantial value’ to the goods, (…), relates only to the intrinsic value of the shape, and does not permit the reputation of the mark or its proprietor to be taken into account.”

Louboutin went on to add: ”Applying Mr. Szpunar’s opinion to our case supports the validity of our trademark since the shape of the outsole to which the red color is applied is not intrinsically valuable. As for the Christian Louboutin’s red color, the only reason it has value is because of our marketing efforts as well as the public’s association of such color applied to a women’s heeled shoe outsole with Christian Louboutin. As such we are of the view that the opinion of M. Szpunar in fact supports the conclusion, even if it is in favor of the application of criteria for shape mark to our trademark (which we do not agree as we consider our mark to be a ‘position’ mark under EU law), that our mark is valid.

“Advocate General Szpunar’s opinion is not a blow or a setback in Christian Louboutin protection of its famous red sole mark, but is ultimately reinforcing our rights.”

The brand’s red soles are said to have been created after founder Christian Louboutin painted a pair of shoes with a colleague’s nail varnish.

 

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