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Louboutin wins trademark battle against VanHaren

Dutch shoe retailer Van Haren has lost its lengthy legal dispute against luxury shoe group Louboutin over the trademark of its red-soled shoes. 

Judges in the District Court of the Hague ruled on Wednesday that Van Haren had infringed Louboutin’s trade mark in its red soles.

The European Court has decided the Dutch shoe chain Van Haren is no longer allowed to manufacture or sell shoes with red soles as Louboutin holds exclusive rights.

However, Van Haren could still appeal the decision against the French luxury label. 

The lengthy battle started in 2012, when Christian Louboutin began proceedings against Van Haren, after it included high-heeled shoes with red soles in its Fifth Avenue by Halle Berry footwear line.

Christian Louboutin had registered trademarks in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, for the colour red being applied to the sole of a shoe, covering “footwear” in 2010 and “high-heeled shoes” in 2013.

The case was first settled by the court of The Hague in April 2013, where it agreed with Louboutin and ordered Van Haren to stop selling the shoes.

Van Haren appealed against that judgement and the matter was presented to the European Court, which also decided that the red sole is covered by Louboutin’s exclusive right.

Now the court of The Hague has again reached a verdict, based on the advice of the European Court, and remains in the same position.

A Van Haren spokesperson said: “We have taken note of the verdict and are currently reviewing whether we will appeal.”

Christian Louboutin has been contacted by Drapers for comment. 

Simon Bennett, partner at law firm Fox Williams, agreed with the decision, but said it is likely “the Dutch brand will appeal it”: “This is the right decision. In my view the red soles act as a brand identifier of the red soles that are a hallmark of the Louboutin brand. The law provides (or did provide when the action first started) that a trade mark that is defined by its shape cannot be protected. However, the red colour is not defined by the shape of the shoe, and therefore can be protected.

”These are very high-end shoes – people don’t buy them in a hurry. The distinctive red sole case has been going on for a very long time. Another twist is what happens after Brexit when the laws change? Surprisingly, it is quite a complex area of law. ”

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