Louboutin v. Amazon: holding marketplaces liable when they sell and advertise counterfeit products?


If the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) had not in 2017 held marketplaces liable for storing and selling counterfeit[1] products, the case brought before the CJEU on June 6, 2021 by Louboutin against Amazon reopens the saga of the liability of online platforms.

At issue, Louboutin accuses Amazon of having carried out “various listings of counterfeit shoes, published by third parties on Amazon’s platform, as well as the storage and delivery of those goods by Amazon under its ‘Fulfilment by Amazon’ program.”

After the District Court of Luxembourg[2] had condemned Amazon, considering that “by publishing, in advertising on the Amazon.fr and Amazon.de websites, reproductions of high-heeled shoes with a red sole [without] the consent of Christian Louboutin, the three defendants […] infringed the trademark rights“, the Court of Appeal of Brussels[3] partially censured the decision on the grounds that Amazon would only be liable for advertisements for its own products and not for those of third parties, applying the established European jurisprudence on the matter. [4]

The question is therefore to determine the degree of responsibility of Amazon, intermediary between the third party seller and the buyer/user, for infringements of trademark rights by a third party on its platform.

Moreover, it should be noted that Amazon does not only store and ship products, but also promotes counterfeit products through its “Fulfilment by Amazon” offer, which could demonstrate Amazon’s active participation in the sale of infringing products.

In this regard, it will be recalled that Article 10 of Directive (EU) 2015/2436 of December 16, 2015 approximating the laws of the Member States relating to trademarks provides that “without prejudice to the rights of proprietors acquired prior to the filing date or priority date of the registered trademark, the proprietor of the said registered trademark shall be entitled to prohibit any third party, in the absence of his consent, from making use in the course of trade, in relation to goods or services, of a sign.”

At the initiative of the Brussels Court of Appeal, the case was then referred to the CJEU on March 8, 2021 by a preliminary question, namely whether “is Article 9(2) of Regulation 2017/1001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of June 14, 2017 on the European Union trade mark to be interpreted as meaning that the use of a sign identical to a trade mark in an advertisement posted on a website is, in principle attributable to its operator if, in the opinion of a reasonably informed and reasonably attentive internet user, that operator actively participated in the preparation of that advertising or if that advertising may be perceived by such an internet user as forming part of that operator’s commercial communication? “.

Our UGGC Law Firm and its team of lawyers specialized in trademark law are at your disposal to assist you in the protection of your legal and economic interests, in particular for the defense of your intellectual property rights online.

By the IP/IT team of UGGC

Source: Court of Justice of the European Union, C-148/21 – Louboutin

[1] CJEU, n°C-230/16, Judgment of the Court, Coty Germany GmbH v Parfümerie Akzente GmbH, 6 December 2017.

[2] District Court of Luxembourg, August 7, 2019

[3] Court of Appeal of Brussels (9th Chamber), Amazon Europe Core sàrl, Amazon EU sàrl and Amazon Services Europe sàrl v Mr. C. Louboutin, 25 June 2020, published in Ing. Cons. 2020/2, p. 509

[4] Note 1 supra