Christian Louboutin Loses To Zara On Red-Sole Trademark Issue

Sell Your Soul For A Sole?

The famous red-soled shoe, the symbol of many a celeb foot fetish (and normal person’s dream), is at it again defending it’s signature feature- the red soles. You may remember a few months ago that Christian Louboutin was in court with Yves Saint Laurent about the same issue. Now it is at odds with high street chain store giant, Zara. Today we learn that a French court has ruled in favor of Zara in a lawsuit filed by Louboutin. The high-end shoe company has been trying to stop Zara from selling a particular pair of $70 red-soled heel. Read on for more of the details about the red hot issue…

Louboutin is definitely the signature celebrity shoe. I would even go so far as to say it is a signature celebrity item, period. You may recall that Beyoncé approached the famed shoe designer to commission him to make her baby daughter, Blue Ivy, her first pair of shoes. Louboutin was also commissioned by Disney to make the glass slipper for the Cinderella DVD re-release. At every single red carpet event or premiere you can almost guarantee there will be hundreds of Louboutin heels walking on the freshly pedicured feet of the stars.

Back to the case at hand. According to NY Mag

The judge initially sided with the plaintiff, but after Zara challenged the decision, the court of appeals ruled in June 2011 that Louboutin’s trademark registration was too vague (it was suggested that he might specify a Pantone number instead). Last week, the Cour de Cassation upheld the court’s June decision and sentenced Louboutin to pay Zara £2,500, or about $3,600. This hardly makes a dent in Zara’s legal fees, but it’s yet another blow to Louboutin’s red-sole trademark, which has suffered a beating in courts over the past year. The shoe designer is currently in the process of appealing a similar case against Yves Saint Laurent that he lost in New York last summer.

So, what is it about the shoe that makes it so chic, so absolutely coveted? Many people would say it comes down to the red sole; the signature feature that lets everyone around you (but particularly behind you) know that you are wearing a Louboutin. It is pure vanity – a status symbol in the color of a sole. Louboutin has taken branding to a whole new level.

Without getting into the legality of the cases because, lets face it, it took multiple judges and courts of appeal to get to the bottom of the issue – it is completely understandable why Louboutin is trying to stop chain stores, such as Zara, from selling their own red-soled shoe. The red sole is the reason so many women desire, and buy, the shoe, and it is the reason so many people save, and save, and save some more to buy that coveted pair of pumps. But do you think Louboutin should be able to stop other shoe designers and fashion chain houses from selling shoes with red soles?

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  1. Krissy

    I completely disagree that it is the red sole that makes people want to buy Loubs. I think they would still be a red carpet icon without it, because it is more about the extravagant style and the incredibly sexy arch that his shoes have. The red sole makes them easy to spot, but I don’t think that is the reason for they are so coveted.

    A sole is such a basic part of a shoe, it seems absurd to try and limit the colors other designers can use. It would be like if all of a sudden a designer made red sleeves, and then suing everyone else who makes a dress or shirt with red sleeves. It is a basic color that has been used for centuries and on a basic component of shoes.

  2. Me, Myself, I

    Personally I feel like the red bottom is the big deal. (It sure isn’t because they are comfortable!) Its about having that red bottom and people knowing without a doubt that you are wearing Louboutins!

    • ChristineLA

      I agree with you completely. This is the crux of why Louboutin is spending so much in court costs to fight any other manufacturer from doing anything similar! It was smart branding, and it worked brilliantly, but to say it’s because of the shoes themselves is kind of ridiculous, as the majority of the world wouldn’t be able to pick a Louboutin out of a line up were it not for the distinct red sole.

    • Krissy

      If that red sole had been attached to a poor quality shoe, it wouldn’t mean anything.

  3. Ben@pr

    “the signature feature that lets everyone around you (but particularly behind you) know that you are wearing a Louboutin.” I really liked this sentence Melissa because it’s kind of a metaphor mostly the segment in parenthesis. They are like the new Manolo Blanik because they have celebrity status and EVERY celebrity has them unlike the Manolos that were introduced by fashion icon Carrie Bradshaw/SJP.

  4. Susan

    Allowing other shoe companies to do a red sole is like allowing other jewelry companies to use the Tiffany blue for their boxes, bags, etc. The red sole is characteristic of a CL shoe – it is part of his brand and notoriety. Other companies wouldn’t be allowed to use something so crucial to a brand if it were like the Chanel logo – the red sole is no different. This just seems like a pathetic ploy for other shoe companies to try to sell their inferior product through riding CL’s coattails.

    • Kat

      I believe that Tiffany has their blue trademarked though. And people knock off their look all the time but they aren’t allowed to use the exact colour.
      Did he or could he have trademarked his idea?

    • Kat

      *better

    • Susan

      I think he did, but in this case the courts ruled that a particular colored sole isn’t covered under the current copyright/trademark rules. Or something like that.

  5. Sofia

    honestly i just like the red sole, for the longest time i had no idea that it was just a louboutin thing, i just think theres something hot about it. i love shoes and i would love a $50 pair of heels with a red sole.

  6. the problem is you cannot trademark a color on a piece of clothing or an accessory. besides, ysl did a red sole way before mr. louboutin. if a court sided with him it would set a precedent that would be unrealistic. so does susan g komen own the color pink? lance armstrong the color yellow? what about target and red?

    • Kat

      then how it that Tiffany managed to trademark their colour? And I do think that you can “trademark” accessories & clothing, if I designed something why can’t I sue someone who stole/used my exact design? But that is a bit different from the shoe colour issue.
      I guess I am just curious as to how trademark laws are perceived by people and how they work for or against us.

    • tiffany can trademark a specific color if it is used in conjunction with, say, jewelry. for instance, they would have to select an exact color (pantone is widely used in the industry as a color matching system) so they would choose, say, pantone #452 (or whatever number, a specific formula), then register it under the international class for jewelry.
      the problem with that however is it only covers that EXACT color and only when it is associated with jewelry. someone could in effect take the same color, slightly tweak it and then use it. and get away with it. or, they could use the exact same color (without tweaking it) for something other than jewelry, like food. because tiffany only owns it for jewelry.
      the main problem with louboutin is he is just saying “no one can have red on the soles of shoes” that’s way too broad. there are thousands of reds. if it’s too broad it can be seen as an infringement of free speech. it’s too constrictive. he would have to be very specific (exact color number). but then it wouldn’t really matter because someone could just slightly tweak it and people wouldn’t even notice.
      he also runs into the problem thta he was not the first to have a red soled shoe. ysl was able to prove they had done it earlier.
      i know it gets kind of convoluted but i hope that helps. i’ve recently worked with a trademark attorney for my blog.

  7. Lula

    I just think it is super cheesy that anyone would want to try and knock off the red sole. Most peeps at this point know the red sole is CL, so others doing it are just trying to ride of their coat tails with tacky knockoffs. Sad, really.

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