For the shoe-obsessed, it may be the most important case to ever be heard in court. Ever.
Last week, Judge Vincent Marrero denied Christian Louboutin's motion for a preliminary injunction to halt production of Yves Saint Laurent's (YSL) Resort 2011 all-red shoes. In his opinion, Marrero explained, "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, who has been making red soled shoes for almost 20 years, announced today that he will "fight like hell" in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to protect his trademarked red soles, reports Vogue UK.
So what's at stake?
Only the fate of the luxury shoe industry.
In the Louboutin YSL litigation, Louboutin claims to be the first designer to "develop the idea of having red soles on women's shoes," and insists that YSL's "use of red footwear outsoles that are virtually identical to the [Louboutin's] Red Sole Mark is likely to cause and is causing confusion, mistake and deception among the relevant purchasing public."
Louboutin secured a registered U.S. trademark on red soled shoes in 2008.
YSL, which has created certain styles of red soled shoes since the 1970s, counters that "red outsoles are a commonly used ornamental design feature in footwear, dating as far back as the red shoes worn by King Louis XIV in the 1600s and the ruby red shoes that carried Dorothy home in The Wizard of Oz," according to Elle UK.
New York magazine reports that YSL will pursue summary judgment in the Louboutin YSL case, which would cancel Louboutin's red sole trademark without the circus of a trial.
While we try to avoid incurring the wrath of the red sole king, we agree with YSL. Red soled shoes existed long before Louboutin added red soles to his entire line. (Sidebar, YSL: Feel free to thank us for our support with shoes.)
More importantly, we do not see how Louboutin's sales would suffer due to red sole confusion. The "relevant purchasing public" in this case spends approximately $800 on a pair of shoes; they understand the difference between an all-red YSL Tribute pump, which has a red insole bearing the YSL logo, and Louboutins, which have cream insoles printed with Christian Louboutin Paris. (Sidebar, Louboutin: We will accept shoe bribes to reconsider this opinion.)
- Louboutin v. Yves Saint Laurent America (U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York)
- Decisions in Trademark Cancellation & Exceptional Case Finding (FindLaw's Federal Circuit blog)
- Trademark Infringement: Vogue v. Victoria Small Biz (FindLaw's Free Enterprise blog)
- Designer Loses Bid to Protect Signature Shoes (The New York Times)
- Louboutin's 'Red Soles' Lawsuit: Judge Refuses To Stop YSL's Shoe Sales (Huffington Post)