BRUSSELS, Belgium — Christian Louboutin's battle to protect his trademark red soles was given a lift on Tuesday when the European Union's top court said they did not consist exclusively of a shape, which are usually not protected under EU trade mark law.
The judges at the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) did not follow the advice of the advocate general who said in February that the red color could not be considered apart from the shape of the sole.
"The mark 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," the ECJ said in a statement.
The French designer went to court in The Netherlands to prevent the Dutch high street chain Van Haren from selling its own versions of high-heeled shoes with red soles, a favorite on celebrity red carpets.
A Dutch court had asked the ECJ if the prohibition on the registration of shapes as trademarks also applied to shapes combining three-dimensional properties of a product and other characteristics such as colors.
The court in The Hague will deliver the final ruling on the matter based on the ECJ decision.
Louboutin, founded in 1991, claimed victory and "warmly" welcomed the ruling.
"The protection of Christian Louboutin's red sole trademark is strengthened by the European Court of Justice," Louboutin said in a statement. "The red color applied on the sole of a woman's high heel shoe is a position mark, as Maison Christian Louboutin has maintained for many years."
The ECJ said that a trademark, such as Louboutin's, could not be regarded as consisting "exclusively" of a shape, where the main element is a specific color designated by an internationally recognized identification code.
By Julia Fioretti; editor: Louise Heavens.