Retail in Asia


Louboutin wins trademark case against Chinese company

Christian Louboutin has prevailed in its red sole trademark case in a Chinese court. Beijing Intellectual Property Court ruled that defendant Guangdong Wanlima Industrial Co, Ltd – a Shenzhen Stock Exchange-listed company – violated China’s Anti-Unfair Competition Law when it offered high-heel footwear with red soles that mirrored the design and the well-known red sole of Louboutin’s shoes.

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According to the lawsuit, the Guangzhou-based company, Guangdong Wanlima Industrial Co, sold a variety of women’s shoes with “similar trade names and red sole decorations” as its own red-soled stilettos through its official flagship store on Alibaba’s Tmall, as well as at New World Department Stores.

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Due to the esteem of the defendant’s widely-recognisable red-soled shoes, the sale of the lookalike footwear is particularly problematic. Louboutin argued that Wanlima had violated Anti-Unfair Competition Law by selling its footwear.

The court injunction required Wanlima to stop selling red-soled footwear immediately and permanently, and to pay Louboutin USD 1,711,855 in damages and USD 642,500 in legal expenses.

This is the latest outcome in a string of trademark and unfair competition cases that have been favorable to non-native brands. The enforcement of intellectual property rights in China is becoming increasingly dependent on unfair competition cases.

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Consequently, Western brands are likely to invest in the Chinese market since China remains a hotbed for luxury goods sales. In 2021, mainland China’s personal luxury goods sales grew 36 percent year-over-year to CNY 471 billion (USD 73.6 billion), keeping the country on track to become the world’s biggest luxury goods market.