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Louboutin Loses Bid to Protect Red Soles in France

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Louboutin shoes by valeyoshino on Flickr

Louboutin shoes by valeyoshino on Flickr

While Christian Louboutin’s battle over his red soles continues versus Yves Saint Laurent in the United States, on the other side of the pond, the shoe designer’s lawsuit against retailer Zara has been struck down by a French court.

In France, Louboutin trademarked his red soles in 2008 and sued Zara last year for “counterfeiting and unfair competition.” Although the lower court ruled for Louboutin, an appellate court ruled in favor of Zara, finding that the trademark wasn’t specific enough because of a lack of mention of a precise color and that there was no likelihood of confusion between the two brands of shoes.

Louboutin’s trademark does now include the specific color (Pantone 18-1663TP, “Chinese Red”), but the core of the court’s ruling remains–that consumers aren’t likely to be confused as to the source of red-soled shoes.

The French court also ordered Louboutin to pay Zara 2,500 euros ($3,600).

While the decision in France has no influence or precedence over what will happen in the Louboutin v. YSL case in the United States, it’s still interesting to see how another court has ruled on a similar issue.

One rather large distinct difference, however, is that Zara is a retailer whose red-soled shoes would be priced significantly lower than Louboutin originals whereas Yves Saint Laurent is a fellow high-end designer targeting the same market.

As we’ve noted previously, Louboutin has the support of fellow designer Diane von Furstenberg as well as that of Professor Susan Scafidi, Fordham Law professor and founder of the Fashion Law Institute.

“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.”

Do you think Louboutin should be able to trademark a specific shade of red and its placement on the soles of shoes?

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June 13th, 2012 at 11:29 am