The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) today handed down its judgment in Roland v Louboutin and OHIM, dismissing the remaining challenge to Christian Louboutin’s European trade mark for the colour red applied to the sole of a shoe. Roland SE, a manufacturer and distributor of electronic musical instruments had originally opposed the trade mark on the basis of the red in its own trade mark.
The trade mark has been subject to several years of legal disputes. In the USA, following challenges to its trade mark registration, in 2012, the trade mark was limited to shoes where the red sole contrasts with the “upper” of the shoe. The Community Trade Mark (CTM) application was originally rejected by the trade mark examiner, then accepted by OHIM (the EU’s trade mark granting authority), but opposed by three companies. All of the oppositions were rejected. Today’s judgment gives a final answer to the two appeals launched by Roland SE against OHIM’s decision to refuse its opposition to the trade mark.
Non-traditional trade marks like Louboutin’s red shoe sole are widely accepted in Europe, so it is not surprising that the Court today has upheld Louboutin’s trade mark. We saw a lot of debate in the USA around this trade mark, but not as much at the pan-Europe level. Today’s decision means that Louboutin will be able to continue defending its trade mark against competitors that manufacture or sell other shoes with red soles here in Europe, as we have already seen them do.
This particular case was unlikely ever to succeed as it was based on the simple fact that Roland uses the colour red in its own trade mark. OHIM (the EU’s trade mark granting authority) rejected Roland’s original opposition and its appeal and now the EU’s highest court has too. Roland now has nowhere else to go to invalidate Louboutin’s CTM.