„Throwing on my Louboutins“,

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is a line in the lyrics of a Jennifer Lopez song. The song somehow flopped, but the shoes  are a legend and commonly recognized by their famous red soles. And because of those shoes the eyes of fashionistas and lawyers are fixed on a law suit that was filed by Christian Louboutin against Yves Saint Laurent  before a Federal Court in Manhattan just recently.

Subject matter is of course the famous red sole that Louboutin has registered as a trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office. He also has pending applications in the European Union - among others as referred to a so-called "position mark". Louboutin is suing Yves Saint Laurent now because in the latest collection the red soled shoes (the “Palais Pump“ and the „Palais Slingback“) were featured. Louboutin considers this an infringement of his trademark(s).

While trademark lawyers and the fashion industry call it „The Clash of the Titans“, fashionistas shake their heads in disbelief. But, from a legal point of view the questions raised are various and quite interesting,  especially from the European point of view.

Can one designer have a monopoly on the right to colored soles?

Can the registration of the red sole as a trademark be upheld (e.g. because a trademark does not have to be "new" in order to be applied or registered for). Or, does it have an influence that red soles been around and used for a long time a.e. for the famous ruby slippers of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz movie, by KingLouis XIV in the 1600s or even by Yves Saint Laurent itself in the 70’s?

Is the red sole, in case of the Yves Saint Laurent shoe, used as a trademark or merely ornamental decoration considering that the same shoe also comes in other colors like green or blue where the sole is then accordingly green or blue.

Furthermore, does Yves Saint Laurent have any interest or advantage in being potentially mistaken for another brand considering that both brands are prestigious and famous?

As a fashionista I would throw on my Louboutins and my Yves Saint Laurents an equally adore  them. As a lawyer I am more than curious about the outcome of the dispute and especially on the consequences that might have on the European trademark registrations and filing strategies. We will keep you updated.

For further information please read:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/24/ysl-louboutin-red-soles_n_866144.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/christian-louboutin-sues-yves-saint-laurent-over-red-soles-on-heels/2011/04/14/AFV2Z4eD_story.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1390229/You-didnt-invent-red-soles-Yves-Saint-Laurent-kicks-Christian-Louboutin.html