The successful shoe designer Christian Louboutin has filed a lawsuit against rival shoe maker and French fashion house YSL claiming that one of its shoe designs infringed on the Louboutin red sole trademark.
Christian Louboutin trademarked for the colour red applied to the sole of a shoe in 2008, after using it on all of the brand’s designs for several years. However, the brand launched legal action when a pair of shoes featured in YSL’s spring 2011 collection had red soles to match the red upper of the shoe, as part of a wider collection in which the upper and sole of the shoe matched in colour.
The lawsuit has now escalated, as YSL has filed a countersuit which questions Louboutin’s right to own the trademark in the first place. YSL’s lawyer David Bernstein said:
“We just don’t think that any fashion designer should be able to monopolize any colour.”
In response, Christian Louboutin has argued that it is a particular shade of red that is trademarked, one that is on the sole of the shoe and is most commonly associated with the shoe brand.
Lawsuits over trademark infringement do occur occasionally in the fashion industry, but they are not as common as in other industries because they are harder to prove and generally end up being lengthy and very expensive for both parties. However, this case illustrates the importance of getting professional indemnity insurance for trademark disputes, just in case.