A new line of women's footwear now being sold by Yves
Saint-Laurent has high-end French shoe designer Christian Louboutin seeing red.
Louboutin's companies, asserting that a new line of red Yves Saint-Laurent shoes
violates their U.S. trademark,
recently filed a trademark infringement suit in federal court in Manhattan
against YSL. The lawsuit raises the interesting question: can
a color be trademarked?
Louboutin's trademark lawyers explain that the issue
isn't about ownership of a color so much as whether a shoe designer can have a
proprietary interest in the use of distinctive red soles. According to the
complaint, Louboutin first thought of the idea of painting the outer soles of
his shoes red in 1992. Ever since then--for nearly two decades--every shoe in
his collection has had that distinctive stylistic feature.
"Louboutin Footwear is instantly recognizable as a
result of Plaintiffs' trademark red outsole," the complaint declares.
"The location of the bright color on the outsole of a woman's pump is said
to provide an alluring 'flash of red' when a woman walks down the street, or on
the red carpet of a special event." The complaint provides a long list of celebrities
who have worn the shoes and even includes two photos of the Carrie Bradshaw
character on Sex and the City, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, wearing the
shoes with the "alluring flash of red."
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at the Virginia
Business Litigation Lawyer blog
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The question answered wasn't, can a color be trademarked? SCOTUS answered that question "yes" some years ago.