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Protecting the sole – Louboutin sees red over trade mark registration challenge

12 September 2012

French luxury shoe designer Christian Louboutin’s glossy red soles were granted trade mark protection in the US in 2008.

In 2011 Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) proposed to launch a new line of red high heels with red soles. Louboutin sued YSL for trade mark infringement.

In August 2011 a US court rejected Louboutin’s case. The appeal court was then asked to decide whether Louboutin was entitled to protection for red soled shoes and last week it held that the Louboutin red sole has taken on a “secondary meaning” as a distinctive symbol of the brand. The registration therefore remains valid. However it limited protection by holding that the registration is not infringed where both the shoe and sole is red.

YSL claims a victory and Louboutin gets to keep its US registration. Louboutin’s global investment in its glossy red soles remains safe, marking a welcome victory for brands that succeed in building a reputation in single signature colours.

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