Louis Vuitton Malletier, famously known as Louis Vuitton (LV), has failed to maintain trademark protection over the well-known chequerboard pattern, particularly in the European Union.
Founded in 1854, the French fashion house and luxury goods brand is touted for their high-end handbags and leather products. Consistently ranked as one of the top luxury brands in the world, LV has produced a range of iconic handbags, such as the LV Speedy and LV Neverfull. The LV Speedy in particular has been produced in every type of material made available by LV, which speaks to the popularity of LV Speedy since its inception in the 1930s.
It is no surprise LV would seek to protect their most famous styles as intellectual property. The chequerboard pattern, officially known as Damier Azur, was released in 2006. Sporting a blue base with a white chequerboard overlay, the Damier Azur quickly became one of LV’s most prominent and recognisable patterns.
LV successfully trademarked Damier Azur in several jurisdictions, including the United States, Switzerland and more. However, the French luxury house has struggled to gain rights to the chequerboard pattern in the European Union. IP protection for the pattern was short-lived as multiple applications have been filed against LV to cancel the trademarks.
The European Union Intellectual Property Office granted the cancellations, affecting two of LV’s trademarks. The court made the decision based on the grounds of distinctiveness. EUIPO claims the Damien Azur trademark as not highly distinguishable, citing the pattern as a ‘common print’.
LV has presented various pieces of evidence in attempts to prove acquired distinctiveness to EUIPO. These include advertising campaigns, invoices and market share percentage. However, the court dismissed LV’s request for a trademark review.
Why is this?
Trademark protection under EUIPO and its law can only exist if the distinctiveness of a trademark is evident in all geographical areas involving Member States. In the case of LV, EUIPO has claimed insufficient evidence presented by the luxury house to prove distinctiveness throughout all Member States territories, particularly for Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
As a counterargument, LV argues that consumers display homogenous behavior with regards to luxury brands due to widespread internet use and overseas travel. LV also argued that geographical proximity and cultural similarities between neighbouring countries allows to prove acquired distinctiveness.
Despite Louis Vuitton’s legacy and popularity, the company is still unable to protect one of its most iconic patterns, proving trademark protection as a real battle for businesses large and small alike.
EUIPO has declined to approve LV’s requests for a trademark review thus far.
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