Louboutin partially wins case against YSL

2nd Circuit says shoemaker has the exclusive right to red soles, except when the shoe itself is red

Designers, models, celebrities and media representatives across the globe have flocked to the Big Apple for New York’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, which kicks off today. And though fashionistas will be focusing mainly on the latest spring ensembles, they also might be gossiping about the recent outcome of a fierce legal battle between two stalwart brands.

The Paris-based shoe designer Christian Louboutin and his company, Louboutin SA, sued rival French luxury fashion house Yves Saint Laurent America (YSL) last April, claiming YSL’s all-red shoes infringed Louboutin’s signature red-soled shoes, which the company began selling in 1992 and patented in 2008. But in August 2011, a federal judge rejected Louboutin’s claim that YSL’s monochromatic shoes are copycats and said the company didn’t have the right to trademark a single color in the fashion industry. Louboutin appealed, and the 2nd Circuit heard arguments in January. YSL claimed it began selling red-soled shoes long before Louboutin, and it argued that it should be able to continue selling its monochromatic shoes—including red ones.

Yesterday, the 2nd Circuit reversed the district court’s decision and found that Louboutin is entitled to trademark protection for its red-soled shoes. However, the three-judge panel said Louboutin only has the right to trademark red soles that contrast with the rest of the shoe, meaning YSL can continue selling its monochromatic shoes.

The case now heads back to the district court for more proceedings, including consideration and counterclaims from YSL.

Read Thomson Reuters and the Wall Street Journal for more about the footwear fiasco.

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