Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Can Shoe Color be Trademarked? The Signature Christian Louboutin Red Sole

Christian Louboutin shoes are known around the world for their signature scarlet red soles. They've been seen on celebrities, such as Victoria Beckham at the Royal Wedding, and on popular TV shows, like Sex and the City. However, can one company monopolize this popular color?

I’ve discussed a proposed law to copyright fashion designs, but can color be seen as distinct? 

 Christian Louboutin and Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) have been locked in a legal battle since April 2011 over the use of the color red, specifically on the soles on shoes. Louboutin has been using red soles since 1992 when the designer saw an assistant painting her nails red, according to the Telegraph. In its 2011 resort collection, YSL included four shoes that were completely red, including the sole. However, the exact shade of red is different from that which Louboutin uses, according to the Telegraph. When Louboutin saw the shoes, he sued alleging that the shoes were virtually identical. Louboutin sought an injunction on the sale of the shoes and damages of at least $1 million.

A completely red shoe from the YSL collection 

In August, a judge ruled that the YSL shoes did not infringe on Louboutin’s trademark because the trademark was overly broad. Thus, the judge did not prevent the sale of red soled shoes and you could soon see more red soled shoes in stores, according to the NY Times’s Runway Blog.

Louboutin has appealed the judge’s decision. The appeal is currently ongoing,

The central argument to the case is not whether color can be trademarked, but what purpose the color serves. Although the color has branding significance, red is also used for aesthetic reasons.

Color can be used as a trademark, according to the Supreme Court, which ruled that the solid green-gold color on pads used in dry cleaning press machines could be trademarked because it served no other purpose than identifying the maker. However, in fashion, color has other purposes, so YSL and the original judge believe all designers should have access. On the other hand, Louboutin contends that they have had their trademark on red soles for 20 years and it has not hurt competition, according to the NY Times.

Analysts believe Louboutin is unlikely to win the case.

What do you think? Should Louboutin be able to restrict the use of red soles?

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  1. Hey those sandals look hot and beautiful, i would love to gift it to someone special....

  2. "There is an element of seduction in shoes that doesn't exist for men," said the designer in a recent interview. "Think about Marlene Dietrich crossing her legs -- the whole attitude. The language starts with the shoe and radiates over the whole body. A woman can be sexy, charming, witty or shy with her Christian Louboutin shoes. Shoes for men are about elegance or wealth; they are not playing with the inner character. That's why women are happy to wear painful shoes. For some a little discomfort is balanced by something else, which has to do with desire. You feel yourself, empower yourself, know yourself. You are aware of your body. This little act of discomfort pays off in lots of other ways."