In the battle of the red sole against design house Yves Saint Laurent, luxe shoe brand Christian Louboutin won a limited victory after an appeals court granted trademark protection for some of its footwear with lacquered red bottoms.
The U.S. Appeals Court in Manhattan overturned a lower court decision by deciding that Louboutin shoes that have red soles combined with a different color top are protected under trademark, while a shoe design that is a monochromatic red all over cannot be protected,
That means Louboutin can theoretically prevent another designer from putting out a black stiletto with a red sole, for example, but not a red stiletto with a red sole. The contrasting red bottom is “an identifying mark firmly associated with” Christian Louboutin, the court decided.
The decision overturns the ruling by a lower court judge last year dismissing Louboutin’s bid to get a temporary injunction and prevent Yves Saint Laurent from selling red-soled shoes that allegedly resembled its own designs.
The appeals judge did not grant the injunction, however, and sent the case back to the trial judge.
“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.
But both companies at this point are claiming victory.
Louboutin lawyer Harley Lewin 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,” Lewin said.
Jyotin Hamid, a YSL lawyer, said in an interview that the ruling is a win for his team 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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