History of a Red Sole. It is clear that the color red raises passions and if not that they say it to two big companies of footwear of luxury that have come up to the confrontation in the Courts of Justice of the European Union.

Louboutin and the battle for red soles

The footwear designer and master shoemaker par excellence of French origin Christian Louboutin, won in June 2018, after six years of confrontations the lawsuit he had to defend that the red color of the soles of his shoes was a distinctive sign and main element of the European Union trademark that he has registered. The red soles have become a fashion icon and as a red mark is valid and protected.

It should be remembered that since 1992 the shoes designed by Christian Louboutin have been characterised by their red lacquered soles.

Can a colour be registered as a European Union Trade Mark?

The Court of Justice of the European Union has finally recognized Louboutin’s exclusivity to use red soles in his shoe designs.
It all started when a Dutch shoe company, Van Haren, copied the red colour of the soles of designer Christian Louboutin. The judgment states that the red mark is a registrable sign and that it was protected before the Dutch company began to manufacture its shoes with red soles and to market them in its shops.

The decision means that since June 2018 the luxury footwear firm can keep its most characteristic stamp, the red sole, registered as its own brand.

There are other companies that have a registered colour, such as the jewellery company Tiffany&Co, which in 1998 registered the so-called Tiffany blue. The British food multinational Cadbury legally protected the purple wrappers. For its part, the mobile phone company T-Mobile, registered in the Netherlands the magenta color that identifies its logo. In Spain there are also other cases of patented colors, such as the blue of Evax packages, the green of El Corte Inglés or the green of the Guardia Civil, among others.

Without a doubt, the colour of a brand is an unmistakable insignia and therefore deserves protection, or is the colour Ferrari red just any colour?

Protection of footwear designs.

This issue of the battle for red soles goes back to 2012, when Van Haren was selling women’s high-heeled shoes with red soles in its stores. Louboutin sued him in the Dutch court, as he infringed the exclusive rights that Louboutin had obtained by registering the colour red for the soles of his high-heeled shoes.

It should be remembered that Louboutin legally registered the heel with the red sole in 2010, and do you know why? We’ll tell you why at the end of the post.

On the other hand, the Dutch company claimed that the designer’s trademark was invalid, excusing itself that according to the European Union’s Trademark Law it is forbidden to register any sign formed only by the shape of a product, in this case the sole. The judge concluded that the concept of “shape” must be effected in accordance with its usual sense of language. And in everyday language, a color in itself, without being spatially delimited, is never considered to constitute a shape.

For that reason, Louboutin made it clear that when he registered the mark the outline of the sole does not form part of the mark, but is intended to highlight the position of the mark, which is the colour red, a colour which is stipulated in the international identification code such as Pantone 18 1663TP and which he applied to his red soles.

In other words, Louboutin’s mark does not consist of the specific shape of the sole of a high-heeled shoe. Drawing the sole serves only to highlight the red colour of the object.

The red sole has allowed the public to attribute its origin to its creator, Christian Louboutin, over the years, thus creating a true personal brand that is different and associated with red soles.

The Advocate General of the European Union Court, Maciej Szpunar, was in favour of annulling the French designer’s mark. For him a mark combining colour and shape can be refused according to the agreements of the directive. Szpunar maintains that the analysis must be made of the intrinsic value of the shape without taking into account the attractiveness it makes to the product because of the reputation of the trademark owner.