Amazon ‘Could Be Held Responsible’ For Trademark Breach

An EU court has said Amazon may be held responsible for trademark infringement over advertisements for red-soled shoes sold on its platform, according to a preliminary ruling by the European Court of Justice.

The preliminary ruling could affect the way Amazon distinguishes products it sells itself on the platform from those sold by third parties.

The case concerns shoes with red soles sold by third parties on Amazon’s platform, and which designer Christian Louboutin says violate his EU and Belenux trademark.

Louboutin’s red-soled stilletos sell for at least £600, but similar regularly sells over Amazon’s platform without his consent, the designer says.

Image credit: Maison Louboutin

‘Misleading’

He brought two cases against Amazon over the issue in 2019, in Belgium and Luxembourg, saying Amazon’s selling model was “misleading the public”.

The courts both asked for the guidance of the EU’s top court, the European Court of Justice (CJEU), which handed down its preliminary decision late last week.

Amazon said it is studying the decision.

The court said users could potentially think Amazon itself is selling the shoes on behalf of Louboutin, noting, for instance, that Amazon may display its own logo next to third-party ads or may store and ship the shoes in question.

Image credit: Maison Louboutin

‘Difficult’ distinction

“These circumstances may indeed make a clear distinction difficult, and give the impression to the normally informed and reasonably attentive user that it is Amazon that markets – in its own name and on its own behalf,” the court said.

Louboutin’s lawyer, Thierry Van Innis, said the ruling followed the designer’s arguments “in every detail”.

“Amazon will be forced to change its model and stop misleading the public by mixing up their own and third-party offers,” he said.

The cases will now be returned to the national Belgian and Luxembourg courts to decide whether users could have been under the impression that the ads came from Amazon rather than third-party sellers.

Image credit: Maison Louboutin
Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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