Red Bottoms for All or Just Louboutin?

January 26, 2012  |  

When you see a pair of “red bottoms,” as the rap world has so affectionately come to label Christian Louboutin shoes, you know who they belong to, and the French shoemaker wants to make sure things stay that way.

On Tuesday, the luxury label battled with with another well-known French fashion house, Yves Saint Laurent, in appeals court in an attempt to overturn a decision made by Federal Judge Victor Marrero last August that denied Louboutin’s request to stop YSL from selling a line of shoes with red tops and bottoms.

“Louboutin’s claim would cast a red cloud over the whole industry, cramping what other designers could do while allowing Louboutin to paint with a full palette,” Judge Marrero wrote in his opinion, suggesting that the trademark the brand was granted in 2008 to use red for the soles of it’s shoes was given in error. He argued that color performs a creative function and doesn’t identify or advertise a commercial source. “Louboutin would thus be able to market a total outfit in red, while other designers would not.”

Attorney Harley Lewin argued strongly against that suggestion before a three-judge panel, noting that red soles are synonymous with his client’s brand.

“Christian Louboutin has created one of the more iconic trademarks of the 21st century. Louboutin turned a pedestrian item into a thing of beauty.”

YSL’s counsel, David Bernstein, of course, wants Judge Marrero’s opinion to be upheld:

“Artists of this type need the full palette of colors available. In order to compete and compete fairly, we need red. We don’t want to find out that we can make green, blue, purple shoes… but we are enjoined from making red.”

If YSL has gone this long without making  a shoe with a red sole, I think they’ll be alright. Everyone knows a red bottom equals Louboutin, and since the brand has only trademarked its shade known as “China Red,” YSL should be content using any other variation in the color pallet. The judges meanwhile are trying to determine whether Judge Marrero properly interpreted trademark law and whether to send the case back to him for additional findings.

What do you think about this issue? Should Christian Louboutin have sole rights to China Red bottoms or should all designers be allowed to use a red sole if they so choose?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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