(CN) – Siding with a luxury retailer, the European Court of Justice said Tuesday that the law banning shape trademarks does not apply to the red soles of Christian Louboutin shoes.
A competing shoe seller called Van Haren made the argument in a bid to invalidate the trademark Louboutin had accused it of infringing.
In the Netherlands, where Louboutin brought its suit, the District Court at the Hague invited the EU’s highest court to weigh in.
That answer Tuesday from the Grand Chamber of the Luxembourg-based court emphasizes that courts must apply the standard definition of shape since the term is undefined in the statute.
“While it is true that the shape of the product or of a part of the product plays a role in creating an outline for the color, it cannot, however, be held that a sign consists of that shape in the case where the registration of the mark did not seek to protect that shape but sought solely to protect the application of a color to a specific part of that product,” the ruling states.
France, Germany and the United Kingdom were among Louboutin’s supporters in the appeal. The Court of Justice agreed with them Monday that “the mark at issue does not relate to a specific shape of sole for high-heeled shoes since the description of that mark explicitly states that the contour of the shoe does not form part of the mark and is intended purely to show the positioning of the red color covered by the registration.”
“In any event, a sign, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, cannot be regarded as consisting ‘exclusively’ of a shape, where, as in the present instance, the main element of that sign is a specific color designated by an internationally recognizes identification code,” the ruling continues.