Christian Louboutin Sarl won trademark protection for its well-known red-soled women’s shoes. Louboutin had sought a preliminary injunction that would have prevented YSL (Yves Saint Laurent), another high end designer shoe company, from selling all-red shoes that Louboutin claimed were identical to some of its own. In August of 2011 U.S. district judge Victor Marrero rejected Louboutin’s bid for an injunction and implied the company would probably lose the trademark case against YSL.
The appeals court in Manhattan ruled that the red sole is entitled to limited trademark protection, extending only to a red lacquered sole that contrasts with the color of the rest of the shoe and not to shoes that are completely red. The judges affirmed the lower court’s denial of the injunction against YSL and sent the case back to the trial judge. The U.S. circuit Judge Jose Cabranes said that granting Louboutin broad rights for red shoes would harm competition, but that the red sole of the shoe is entitled to trademark protection.
Yves Saint Laurent, the company named for the designer who died in 2008, claims they began selling shoes with red soles long before Louboutin and said Louboutin interfered with its business and contacted different shoe vendors ordering them to return the red shoes back to the company. Louboutin, on the other hand, says YSL’s red-soled shoes “threaten to mislead the public”.