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Louboutin and YSL Battle Over the Color Red

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Louboutin shoes by valeyoshino on Flickr

Louboutin shoes by valeyoshino on Flickr

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals recently heard arguments on high-end shoe designer Christian Louboutin’s injunction request to stop Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) from selling red-soled shoes, a Louboutin trademark.

No really, a legally registered trademark.

Louboutin registered the color Pantone-18 Chinese Red with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 2008.

Last year, Louboutin sought an injunction against YSL to stop the competing design house from selling red-soled shoes, which Louboutin claims confuses consumers and amounts to trademark infringement.

But Judge Victor Marrero of the Southern District of New York Court denied the injunction request, writing that the trademark was  “overly broad” and further,

Because in the fashion industry color serves ornamental and aesthetic functions vital to robust competition, the court finds that Louboutin is unlikely to be able to prove that its red outsole brand is entitled to trademark protection, even if it has gained enough public recognition in the market to have acquired secondary meaning.

Louboutin appealed the ruling, and so the battling fashion designers were back in court last week in front of a panel at the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, which will issue a decision at a later date.

During argument, presiding Judge José Cabranes asked if Louboutin was really trying to trademark “the color red” as YSL claimed. Louboutin’s attorney Harley Lewin clarified, noting that the company merely wanted to make “a particular color, in a particular place, on a particular item” off-limits to other designers.

Louboutin has the support of fellow designer Diane von Furstenberg as well as that of Professor Susan Scafidi, who teaches fashion law at Fordham University.

“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.”

Trademarking a color isn’t new as Tiffany’s, Cadbury’s, T-Mobile, and Orange have all registered their signature colors.

What do you think of Louboutin’s claim? Should he be able to trademark a specific shade of red and its placement on the soles of shoes?

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January 30th, 2012 at 10:48 am