The red sole lawsuit: Christian Louboutin Vs YSL case finally concludes

Christian Louboutin red sole

Christian Louboutin ‘Daffodile’ platforms, £635

I’ve written about the ongoing “red sole” dispute between Christian Louboutin and Yves Saint Laurent before here, but it’s been so long since the case actually started that some of you might have forgotten all about it by now. To summarize, then:

YSL created a version of their ‘Palais’ pumps with a bright red upper and matching sole:

YSL Palais

Christian Louboutin objected, claiming that the use of the red sole was an infringement of his own registered trademark. He took the matter to court, seeking an injunction against YSL, plus damages.

What followed was an 18-month legal wrangle which even I gave up trying to follow after a while, but the final twist in the tale involved YSL launching a counter-claim against Louboutin: are you still following this?

Last month, however, the Court of Appeals ruled that YSL could continue to use the red sole… but only on shoes with a matching red upper. On all other shoes, Louboutin’s trademark stands, meaning that other brands who decide to give red soles to non-red shoes risk legal action from the designer. The ruling seems to revolve around the idea that it’s the contrast of the sole against the upper which people connect with a Louboutin design, with a different effect being created by all-red designs like the YSL peep toes at the centre of the dispute.

Happily, both brands seem to be relatively satisfied with this ruling, with YSL’s decision to drop their counter-claims against Louboutin this week officially marking the end of the dispute. Both claim to have “won”, but what do you think – who’s the real winner here?


  • Wow, 18 months?! I don’t really get it. If I look at the pictures, I think the two colours don’t even match! The ones from YSL aren’t as bright as the ones from Louboutin. I always thought that this whole “feud” was about using the distinct “Louboutin-red”! But I think both labels have won this, both are in the spotlights in the moment. Bad attention is attention too!

    • I think that might just be down to these particular photos, where the Louboutin looks brighter than it really is and the YSL looks duller – in real life it was pretty much the same colour!

  • I think Louboutin targeted the YSL shoe because they are comparable luxury brands. Louboutin is less concerned (or concerned in a different way) about down market imitations. This was more about the precedent they wanted to set than any real infringement on the part of YSL. I don’t think that the resemblance was intentional of YSL’s part since the things that make the shoes noteworthy is the exact opposite of the Louboutin signature sole: matching rather than contrasting.

    • He did actually try to take legal action against Zara last year over red soles and has had shoes withdrawn from much lower-priced brands, too. I think his issue (rightly or wrongly) is that a red sole makes people assume the shoe is a Louboutin, regardless of the colour of the upper…

  • I don’t know if it’s a fair decision or not but at least they have both agree. I saw a pair of YSL shoes some years ago with a purple sole and they should have stuck with that – it looked amazing!

  • I’ve been following this case with interest and have to say I’m kinda on the fence, I can see both sides of the argument. YSL has been making ‘monochromatic’ shoes for a while and I don’t think they should have to avoid red so as not to have a red soled shoe. But at the same time, I can see why Louboutin would be concerned – some of YSL’s styles have become quite iconic and easily recognised, but those who aren’t shoe or fashion nuts like us may not make the brand distinction – my Mum, for example, could spot a Tribute sandal or Daffodille pump and know it’s by a famous designer, but she wouldn’t be able to tell you which was by which label, so if she spotted a red sole she quite probably would assume it was Louboutin. All in all I think a happy resolution has been met – I’m glad Louboutin’s use of the red sole has been recognised as synonomous with his designs, but equally glad that YSL have avoided being penalised for what I don’t believe was deliberate infringment.

  • Wow shouldn’t a trade mark include a name of that particular brand, do not just sue me over the color of the sole? I’m thinking Louboutin don’t like the competition at is all.

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