Louboutin Can’t Trademark Its Signature Red Sole

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Christian Louboutin, the women’s shoe designer responsible for the oft-coveted red-soled shoes, has been in a heated legal battle with fashion house Yves Saint Laurent since April. Louboutin’s lawyers have argued that YSL’s 2011 Cruise collection, which includes red-soled high heels, infringe on a 2008 patent. However, a New York judge denied that claim, saying, “Louboutin’s claim to ‘the color red’ is, without some limitation, overly broad and inconsistent with the scene of trademark registration.”

Generally speaking, American law states that colors can only be trademarks if they serve – and only serve – to identify the source of a product. This rationale allowed Tiffany & Co. to own the color trademark of Pantone 1837 – “Tiffany Blue.”

Back in 2007, oil giant BP tried to trademark the color green in Australia, but a judge in the High Court of Australia asked, “What is natural and healthy about the production or consumption of petroleum products?” to which the BP representative responded, “To the consumer in the context of oil…green indicates BP, not environmental friendliness.” Needless to say, the High Court rejected the application.

In this case, however, Louboutin’s lawyers think that NY court’s ruling is wrong, and expect to appeal the ruling.

Interestingly enough, Christian Louboutin began selling red-soled shoes in 1992, whereas YSL has sold them since the 1970s… hmm, who’s infringing now?

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