August 10, 2011 / 5:38 PM / 8 years ago

Judge steps on Louboutin bid to protect red soles

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Wednesday denied a request by French footwear designer Christian Louboutin to stop Yves Saint Laurent from producing high-heeled shoes with red soles.

Paris-based Louboutin, whose pumps have graced many fabulous and famous feet, sued fashion rival Yves Saint Laurent in April in Manhattan federal court over what he claims is his signature use of lacquered red on shoe soles.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero quoted lyrics by singer and actress Jennifer Lopez and poet Walt Whitman.

He warned in an occasionally humorous opinion that granting Louboutin’s trademark claim could lead to “fashion wars.”

“If Louboutin owns Chinese Red for the outsole of high fashion women’s shoes, another designer can just as well stake out a claim for exclusive use of another shade of red, or indeed even Louboutin’s color, for the insole, while yet another could, like the world colonizers of eras past dividing conquered territories and markets, plant its flag on the entire heel for its Chinese Red,” Marrero said.

Louboutin asked the judge to find its famous red soles protected under the Lanham Act, which governs trademark law. The judge recognized that the soles were indeed unmistakable, but declined to grant an injunction.

“The Court therefore concludes that Louboutin has not established a likelihood that it will succeed on its claims that YSL infringed the Red Sole Mark to warrant the relief that it seeks.”

The judge said Louboutin sells about 240,000 pairs of shoes in the United States each year. Revenues for 2011 are projected at about $135 million.

Louboutin lawyer Harley Lewin said he thought the judge was wrong in saying that colors in fashion could not be protected.

“It appears to us that while acknowledging the trademark status and renown of Louboutin’s famous Red Sole trademark, he has unilaterally decided that a single color cannot be a trademark in the fashion industry,” Lewin said. “We disagree and are evaluating the alternatives available.”

Editing by Robert MacMillan

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