Earlier today, it was announced that Christian Louboutin’s bid to file a preliminary injunction against Yves St Laurent, preventing the brand from selling shoes with red soles, has been refused by a judge. Louboutin argues that the red sole is his trademark, and that by using the same shade on their own soles, YSL could confuse consumers.
The ruling states:
“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, even if it has gained enough public recognition in the market to have acquired secondary meaning.”
I’ve been following this case since it started, and while it’s far from over yet, I must say, I’m disappointed by this decision. No one would argue that Louboutin invented the concept of coloured soles, of course (the designer doesn’t claim that himself), but the fact is that the red sole has become intrinsically associated with his shoes, to the point where people who aren’t familiar with the design of the uppers WILL assume that a shoe with a red sole was designed by Louboutin, not by YSL, or by any of the other brands who’ve used red soles over the years.
Because of that, I honestly can’t really understand why YSL even WANT to use red soles on their shoes, especially the particular shade of red that’s associated with Louboutin. There are lots of colours out there. There are lots of ways to make the sole of a shoe stand out. And YSL make beautiful shoes in their own right: shoes which don’t need a red sole to be appealing to the people who buy them. Why would they even WANT to use the same design feature as another brand?
(It’s also important to note that here that Christian Louboutin isn’t seeking to prevent YSL from using the colour AT ALL: only to prevent them using it on soles, which he believes could create confusion, and dilute his brand.)
I think this is my whole issue with this case. I can understand why the red sole is important to Christian Louboutin: I can’t see why it’s so important to YSL, as it’s not something that’s associated with their brand.
What do you think? Should Louboutin have been granted the injunction?