Seeing Red: Christian Louboutin’s Protection of His Trademark Through His Battle with Yves St. Laurent

By: Sachpreet Bains

Introduction: Let’s start with a simple question. How much are you willing to spend on a pair of shoes? Write three zeros on a piece of paper. Now, place a five in front of the three zeros. Next, place a comma after the five. Lastly, place a dollar sign at the very beginning. You have now written down the “small” amount of “$5,000.” It is very hard to justify spending $5,000 on a pair of stylish shoes. In my twenty-six years, the most I have ever spent on a pair of shoes is about $200.00.

The French luxury brand, Christian Louboutin, is most renowned and notorious for the high-end shoes it produces for both genders. The brand caters to the wealthy population throughout the world, as its luxury line of shoes can be sold in retail stores for up to $6,000 a pair.1 Known for its red lacquered sole, Louboutin successfully applied for a trademark in 2008. This trademark dealt strictly with how red paint was used on the sole of the shoe. When Yves St. Laurent (which has now changed its name to Saint Laurent Paris) made high-heeled shoes incorporating red soles in its 2009 collection, Louboutin sued for trademark infringement and unfair competition under the Lanham Act.2 This note focuses primarily on the District Court and Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision and the difficulties of trademarking a single color in today’s legal world, along with the road to Louboutin successfully being able to retain his trademark for the red lacquered soles of his shoes.

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