Christian Louboutin’s Colorful Trademark

February 14, 2012 | | Comments Off on Christian Louboutin’s Colorful Trademark

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by Tony Guo

In fashion trademarks can be the difference between a twenty dollar pair of shoes and a twenty-hundred dollar pair.  In January 2012 Mr. Louboutin’s went to court to prevent Yves Saint Laurent from marketing shoes that had red soles.  This was not Mr. Louboutin’s first visit to court over the issue.  Last August he was unsuccessful in convincing federal Judge Victor Marrero that red soles can be trademarked.  Judge Marrero cited the freedom to use different colors as vital for the health of the fashion industry and ruled against Mr. Louboutin.

Mr. Louboutin’s recent argument is that the trademark only protects a particular color in a particular place on a particular item.  His argument was met with skepticism from the panel and his lawyer was asked rhetorically whether he thought a color could be trademarked.  Mr. Louboutin’s argument is more subtle than a question about whether a color can be trademarked.  The court overlooked his argument that the color red used in a certain context can serve a trademark.  His trademark for red soles is not much different from Tiffany’s robin blue, Burberry’s plaid, or Louis Vuitton’s brown and gold.

I agree with the panel that fashion is delicate and that colors are vital to the industry.  However Mr. Louboutin’s red soles have become well known in the industry and border line iconic.  Allowing other designers to benefit from Mr. Louboutin’s ground work would defeat the purpose of trademark.  As a society we want to reward individuals like Mr. Louboutin for developing the trademark.  Mr. Louboutin made red soles famous.  The color red had little to do with the success of Mr. Louboutin’s shoes, but the shoes had a lot to do with the success of red soles.  That is why Mr. Louboutin deserves a trademark.


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