Red Sole Dispute: Appeals Court Decision Pleases Both Louboutin, YSL

According to the U.S. Appeals Court decision, Christian Louboutin footwear with different color uppers will continue to receive trademark protection. All red versions, like those lower left, would be excluded.

New York—Both Christian Louboutin and Yves Saint Laurent are claiming victory after a U.S. Appeals Court overturned a lower court decision that had rejected Louboutin’s exclusive claims to red-soled footwear.

Under the ruling, the appeals court gave Louboutin protection for some of its footwear bearing its signature lacquered red soles—those pairs that have a different color upper are protected. But the monochromatic red shoe isn’t.

“We hold that the lacquered red outsole, as applied to a shoe with an ‘upper’ of a different color, has ‘come to identify and distinguish’ the Louboutin brand and is therefore a distinctive symbol that qualifies for trademark protection,” the court said. The contrasting red bottom is “an identifying mark firmly associated with” Christian Louboutin, the court decided.

‘Not a Directive Against YSL Whatsoever’

The appeal judge didn’t grant Louboutin an injunction but rather send the case back to the  district court judge who ruled last year that against Louboutin, saying that one color could never serve as a fashion brand trademark, even though the U.S. Patent and Trademark office had granted Louboutin protection in 2008.

“We hold that the lacquered red outsole, as applied to a shoe with an ‘upper’ of a different color, has ‘come to identify and distinguish’ the Louboutin brand and is therefore a distinctive symbol that qualifies for trademark protection,” the court said.

Harley Lewin, attorney for Louboutin, told Reuters that the ruling will enable the company “to protect a life’s work as the same as embodied in the red sole found on his women’s luxury shoes.”

Jyotin Hamid, attorney for Yves Saint Laurent, said in an interview that the ruling is a win for his side because the court affirmed that YSL’s monochromatic red shoes did not infringe on copyright.

Hamid said the company, which made red-soled shoes as far back as the 1970s, was not going to avoid making those shoes now.

“This is not a directive against YSL whatsoever” to stop making red-soled shoes, Hamid said. “There is only vindication that what we are doing right now is fine.”

 

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