The great man himself has just won a US court case against Yves Saint Laurent confirming he has a valid and enforceable trademark for the use of red soles, but only when the rest of the shoe is painted in a contrasting colour. The judge’s view was that it was this “contrast between the sole and the upper that causes the sole to ‘pop’ and to distinguish its creator.”
This new decision stems from a judge’s refusal last year to grant an injunction against Yves Saint Laurent for selling red high-heel shoes that Louboutin claimed infringed on its trademarked design. Those Yves Saint Laurent shoes in question were monochrome red, covering the entire shoe and upper (for the fashionistas out there YSL sells monochrome red shoes as part of its Tribute and Tribtoo ranges). The judge ruled that the law did not allow “recognition of a trademark for the use of a single colour for fashion items.”
This is not the first time in the US that colour as a trademark has been at issue, with mixed outcomes. The US courts concede that colours are in limited supply and that allowing companies to trademark particular colours would mean restricting attractive colours in each product line. For a colour to be trademarked it must be symbolic and distinguish a brand's goods and indicate their source, without serving any other significant function. With the Louboutin shoes, the red soles serve no essential function of the shoes, although as red traditionally serves as a warning you could argue this is important reminder when wearing six inch platforms!
Currently both Louboutin and YSL are claiming victory: Louboutin because they have the validity of their trade mark confirmed, and YSL because they can continue making their monochrome red shoes without infringing. However Louboutin has stated that he intends will return to contest this monochrome exception.
All this blogger knows is that to preserve those lovely soles her (single) pair of Louboutins are never actually worn outside. Heaven forbid!