Louboutin Wins Trademark Protection, But Loses Injunction

Fashionistas and stylistas are familiar with the trendy, expensive, red soles and high heeled shoes designed by Christian Louboutin.  Earlier this week, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York granted trademark protection to Louboutin’s red-soled, high heeled shoes.

Initially, Louboutin’s brand name filed a preliminary injunction against Yves Saint Laurent America Inc. (“YSL”) from selling shoes that are all red because the YSL shoes include an outer red sole which Louboutin alleges as their trademark.  In August 2011, Judge Marrero in the Southern District of New York denied Louboutin’s injunction.  On appeal, the preliminary injunction was again denied and the case was sent back to district court.

However, the Second Circuit judges clarified that Louboutin’s shoes are entitled to a limited trademark protection.  Specifically, the trademark protection applies to the “red lacquered outer sole that contrasts with the color of the rest of the shoe and not to shoes that are monochromatically red.”  Read the full Bloomberg Businessweek article by Don Jeffrey and Cotten Timberlake here.  Jeffrey and Timberlake quote the decision,

The district court’s conclusion that a single color can never serve as a trademark in the fashion industry was based on an incorrect understanding of the doctrine of aesthetic functionality,” U.S. Circuit Judge Jose Cabranes wrote in today’s decision. “We conclude that the trademark, as thus modified, is entitled to trademark protection.

Chad Bray of the Wall Street Journal expounds upon the decision by stating,

Louboutin may have lost the fight against Yves Saint Laurent’s monochromatic shoe, but won a much broader battle over the use of its iconic color, according to trademark experts.

The full article is available here.

Since the justices believe that granting broad rights to the color red harms competition in the fashion industry, the injunction was denied and YSL will continue to produce red shoes with red outer soles.

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