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Intellectual Property

Christian Louboutin v. Yves Saint Laurent - No End to Their Trademark Battle Over the Color Red?

Red M&Ms, red Crayolas red Porsches - let's hope they never end. But what about the famous red shoe battle between designers Christian Louboutin and Yves Saint Laurent? You thought there was an end to that red dispute, right?

You might be wrong.

As reported by Law360, the USPTO recently denied Louboutin's proposed modifications to its red-soled shoes trademark.

Last year, the Second Circuit rejected, as inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent, a lower court's decision that a single color could never serve as a trademark in the fashion industry [enhanced version available to subscribers].

"Louboutin's trademark," the Second Circuit held, "consisting of a red, lacquered outsole on a high fashion woman's shoe, has acquired limited 'secondary meaning' as a distinctive symbol that identifies the Louboutin brand."

Louboutin's trademark was limited to uses in which the red outsole contrasts with the color of the remainder of the shoe. The trademark, as thus modified, was entitled to trademark protection. The Second Circuit refused to uphold the protection of red lacquered outsoles in all situations.

"We ... instruct the Director of the Patent and Trade Office to limit the registration of the Red Sole Mark to only those situations in which the red lacquered outsole contrasts in color with the adjoining 'upper' of the shoe," the court ordered.

Law360 reports that Louboutin objected to, while Saint Laurent supported, the USPTO's proposed new language for the trademark. Louboutin offered alternate language in hopes of broadening its protection, but the USPTO rejected that language on January 16th.

The Second Circuit has set a Feb. 1 deadline for restoring its jurisdiction to resolve any remaining arguments. 


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