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Christian Louboutin Sees Red over YSL’s Red Sole Shoes

Tuesday May 24, 2011 at 6:18pm
Shoe designer, Christian Louboutin is suing Yves Saint Laurent YSL for and injunction and damages of $1 million for alleged trademark infringement and counterfeiting of his shoes’ most distinctive feature, his signature red sole.

Red soles on shoes have become extremely popular lately and are universally known as the French famed shoe designer extraordinaire, Christian Louboutin’s signature. Despite having obtained a trademark on these infamous red soles in 2008 in U.S., Louboutin has taken fellow Parisian fashion powerhouse Yves Saint Laurent to court over claims that the latter copied the red soles.

In most jurisdictions, distinctive colours, shapes, even smells can now be protected by trademark registration and Louboutin is relying on his trademark registration for red shoe soles.

About a month ago, Mr Louboutin asked YSL America to withdraw its four models of shoes from the same shops that stock his shoes. Having refused to do so, Mr. Louboutin claims that YSL’s sale of lookalike shoes in Manhattan stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman has caused confusion, mistake and deception among the relevant purchasing public.

YSL has argued that Mr. Louboutin does not have ‘exclusive’ use of the red sole, nor did he invent red soles. It claims that it has been putting red soles on shoes since the Seventies, long before Mr Louboutin. It says red soles date 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. YSL also alleged that Mr. Louboutin knows, or should have known, that many footwear models render his sworn statement false and so his trademark application claim is fraudulent.

Christian Louboutin has also brought an action against Brazilian label Carmen Steffens for alleged trademark infringement but Gabriel Spaniol, the brand’s international development director, said ‘We are ready to provide unassailable evidence that we have been using colored soles, especially red, before Mr. Christian Louboutin popularized his. The tones are not the same, and, as catalogues dating from 1996 can prove, Carmen Steffens shoes contain soles of all colours, including red.’

As the battle continues, the reality is that regardless of whether Christian Louboutin invented red soles or had exclusive use of them, he does possess a U.S. trademark protecting its red soles; a trademark that Louboutin has successfully defended on other occasions.
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