The signature red soles of Christian Louboutin shoes are easily recognized by shoe aficionados, but a recent court has denied Louboutin the exclusive right to use the signature color.
Louboutin filed a million-dollar suit against rival Yves Saint Laurent in April, claiming that a series of red-soled YSL shoes would mislead consumers. The suit, charging “trademark infringement, unfair competition and false designation of origin,” was kicked out of federal court in New York last month. The judge ruled that despite Louboutin’s trailblazing use of red soles, he could not prevent competitors such as YSL from doing the same thing.
The judge ruled that “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.”
Louboutin sells about 240,000 pairs each year in the U.S. alone, with revenues of about $135 million. A pair typically costs hundreds of dollars.