Christian Louboutin refused preliminary injunction against YSL

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?


  • I think yes, Louboutin should have been granted the injunction. I totally agree as I cannot find one shred of reasoning for YSL not to choose another color. I think its designer politics and its stupid, like any social politics are. True, smaller brands have used the red sole occasionally, and many knock offs are created in China and other western countries, however, I do not believe that they are doing this because they absolutely have to have this color for a design. I think it is deliberate, stupid as that is.

  • Louboutin should absolutely be able to stop the red sole-stealers. Even if they do happen to be YSL …

  • I think the whole case is ridiculous. I’m going to have to disagree with this one, I don’t think CL should be granted the injunction because I can see this getting much worse in the future and even more petty. If he were to win, then I see it progressing to the point of soles that are not exactly red but close to it being sued. I can understand if the sole AND design were just like CL’s and he sues, but to sue for just rights of a COLOR? I don’t see how people could possibly confuse such a top label like YSL and CL. YSL won’t be claiming they’re CL. You can look at the sole and see his trademark stamp, so using a little mind work will tell you who shoe it is. I don’t think YSL really wants to really use the red sole, they’ve already built up a fanbase without it. Maybe they’re just sticking up for everyone in the fashion industry. I think CL is just being a bully in the whole matter. He wasn’t even the first to do red sole shoes, actually he only started the red soles in 1992.

  • Preliminary injunctions are considered to be pretty much extraordinary remedies. The judge in this case would have made his decision quite quickly and based on limited facts. Without access to the court transcript it is quite difficult to tell what evidence Louboutin laid on in support of the injunction. It would have to be quite convincing and tend to suggest significant losses would occur if the injunction was not granted. That would be really hard for Louboutin to prove particularly at an interim stage.

    If I can get access to the case report, I will comment further 😉

    The wee man may have lost the battle but the war will wage on.

  • YSL was color co-ordinating the collection with outsoles. They used red/green/blue/black outsoles matching it to the respective uppers. They weren’t just putting red outsoles on for the sake of knocking-off CL.

    In hindsight CL made a mistake by taking on YSL, as they have just open the flood gates to all the other brands. Other brands now have a precedent to quote. Bad day for CL……

  • I agree that it’s a bit ridiculous too. I’m a big fan of CL’s designs and obviously the red soles are his trademark. But. We’re talking about one pair of shoes here. One design by YSL where they co-ordinated the outsoles with the uppers. So the blue shoes had blue soles and the red ones had red soles. No big deal. YSL isn’t meaning to knock off CL’s designs, they don’t even want to use the red sole in the future. I’d rather see stricter rules against the actual knock offs.

  • I agree with the court’s decision, he didn’t invent red soles and to ban other brands of use of the color red would be ridiculous too. It’s like if some brand made some really rad strappy sandals and other brands were banned from making strappy sandals. like hell.

  • He may not have invented it and only started using them in 92 but the red sole is intrinsically linked with his shoes identity now. Americans have short memories after all. As far as the YSL they used yellow soles with black shoes and blue soles on black Tribtoos so they can’t say they are just coordinating the soles.

    • They were coordinating it for a specific season and line. Not all their shoes, are all tribs either. If you look at the line you will understand. Anyone with any mind of shoes would know right away its ysl, and the entire line does in fact have coordinating soles to upper. Exact. It’s an amazing line, and far better then any of the junk louboutin throws out lately. Ysl proved they used red before louboutin was even around, and while it is more known for louboutins today, other brands do it all the time and get away. The design was done for a specific reason, and not in any way to confuse ysl to louboutin. It is petty and ridiculous to feel you can own a color.

  • I think Louboutin should have won this injunction. I have seen YSL shoes with purple soles which I thought looked amazing, and made them a little different to the others. Mind you, the two pairs I own both have black soles. But I definitely associate red soles with Louboutins.

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