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Christian Louboutin Wins Red Bottom Patent Case in EU Court

Christian Louboutin has emerged victorious in a crucial case defending the patent for its famed red bottom soles.

The Paris-based luxury designer came out ahead Wednesday when the District Court of The Hague in the Netherlands handed down a judgment that acknowledged patent infringement by fellow French designer, Van Haren, which had released its own line of red-bottomed heels beginning in 2012.

Over the years, Louboutin has defended its red-bottoms on multiple continents in multiple countries and against multiple brands, including Zara and a particularly well-known court battle with Yves Saint Laurent over the same patent, also in 2012. That one ended in a victory for Louboutin thanks to some assistance from jeweler Tiffany, which provided evidence that colors like its robin’s egg blue could, indeed, be part of intellectual property.

Despite this seemingly unending court battle, the luxury brand is now celebrating a victory against Van Haren that should be the final chapter of that particular lawsuit and which could set a precedent protecting the color of its soles under EU patent law.

Wednesday’s judgment confirmed Louboutin’s claims that Van Haren had committed patent infringement and the infringing designer will no longer be allowed to red-bottoms on high-heeled women’s shoes, the Fashion Law reported. Before the judgment, Van Haren’s argument was that it was the shape of the sole that was protected under patent law and not Pantone 18 1663TP, the red hue used on every red-bottomed Louboutin heel.

Initially, the courts agreed with Louboutin and ordered Van Haren to cease manufacturing of the offending footwear and to pay Louboutin damages incurred by its infringement. However, Van Haren appealed that decision and the case was sent to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the highest court in the EU.

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There, the CJEU was tasked with deciding whether or not the color of a sole was of material value to a brand and could be patented or if it was simply a “shape” that could not be protected by patent law—meaning the patent would be too general to warrant claims of damages.

On June 12, 2018, the CJEU decided that the color of red-bottoms was protectable and sent the case back down the pipeline to the District Court of the Hague. This gave Christian Louboutin’s lawyers a marked advantage and the company said it “warmly” welcomed the ruling.

On Wednesday, the District Court of The Hague handed down a favorable ruling for Louboutin.

“The court in convention destroys the default judgment and again defensively orders Van Haren to cease all use of the sign challenged by Louboutin in this manner…for high-heeled women’s shoes immediately after service of this award,” the court wrote.

As part of the decision, Van Haren will be required to provide a statement listing all purchase orders, invoices and copies concerning suppliers, professional customers, price data and profit information to Louboutin within a month of the ruling. The remaining stock of Van Haren’s infringing shoes will have to be destroyed at the brand’s expense and it will also be required to pay a fine of 20,000 euros ($22,648) for each further day Van Haren violates the patent.

Additionally, the court will require Van Haren to pay both the cost of the court proceedings and a later fine of a yet-to-be-decided amount that will cover damages incurred by Louboutin as a consequence of its trademark infringement.