The French designer Christian Louboutin has become world-famous for his iconic shoe design – sky-high heels and red shoe soles. The trademark for the red sole was registered in the Benelux in 2010 and the explicit registration for high-heeled shoes followed in 2013. A few years ago Louboutin went to court against the Dutch subsidiary of the Deichmann group Van Haren. After a long struggle, ECJ finally granted Louboutin exclusive rights to use the red color with the limitation to the shoe sole in June 2018.
Louboutin has tried to extend trademark protection for red shoe soles to China since 2010. Now, the High People’s Court in Beijing has issued the decision: the argument, previously used to repeatedly reject the trademark application, was incorrect, and the combination of a single color and the certain position within the design – on the sole of a high-heeled shoe – can be protected as a trademark in China.
Christian Louboutin’s success creates a precedent for Western companies. The decision allows for the first time in China to register a single color to protect the original product. It opens the door for Western companies to achieve trademark protection also for non-traditional trademarks with sufficient distinctiveness. Further trademark applications indicating the position of a color on a product will follow. This is a good opportunity to gain stronger protection of color trademarks on the Chinese market.