Louboutin fights to keep red sole trademark
Actress Victoria Raposo in her red-soled Christian Louboutins during the Cannes Film Festival on May 18, 2010 in Cannes, France. / Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Christian Louboutin's shoes sell for thousands of dollars a pair, but the luxury designer recently argued in court that the trademark for his shoes' red soles is priceless. However, a New York judge wasn't convinced that his lawsuit against rival fashion house Yves Saint Laurent had merit.
The French designer's unmistakable red-soled shoes enjoy a popularity bolstered by TV shows like "Sex and the City" and by stars like Jennifer Lopez. That fame prompted Louboutin to trademark his red-soled look back in 2008. Now, the designer is likely seeing red after U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero denied his request to stop the sale of women's shoes with red soles by Yves Saint Laurent, which, like Louboutin, is based in Paris.
Though the ruling came at an early stage of the lawsuit Louboutin filed in April, the judge said it will probably be tossed out.
In the label-conscious luxury market, Louboutin has argued his red-soled shoes are the equivalent of his signature and should be off limits to his rivals, including Yves Saint Laurent. According to an Associated Press report, Yves Saint Laurent has manufactured red-soled shoes since the 1970s.
Professor Susan Scafidi, who teaches fashion law at Fordham University, said Louboutin is making a very specific legal claim.
"Christian isn't saying to Yves Saint Laurent, 'You can never use red on any part of a shoe,'" said Scafidi. "He's saying you can't put it on a sole because consumers recognize it as mine, and the consumers will be confused."
CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano reported it's a confusion that could threaten the distinctive Louboutin brand if the market is flooded with lookalikes.
But the judge disagreed and has even questioned the validity of Louboutin's trademark, saying, "Louboutin's claim would cast a red cloud over the whole industry, cramping what other designers do, while allowing Louboutin to paint with a full palette."
Staci Riordan, of Fashion Law Practice Group at Fox Rothschild, said, "It allows for designers to be more artistic and they don't have to be always looking over their shoulders saying, 'Am I going to get sued because I used red that's two shades off of their red?'"
Both sides will be in court next week to argue whether the red-soled trademark should remain in place.
"Christian Louboutin will fight this," said Scafidi. "I think we're going to see bloody footprints on the floor, not just red ones."
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