So, last week there was quite the hullabaloo about the whole red bottom saga! In a court case that has all sides seeing red, no pun intended, the United States District Court for the the Southern District of New York said that Christian Louboutin, the French maker of luxury shoes worn by stars such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Scarlett Johansson and Halle Berry will likely fail in its effort to stop other shoemakers/competitors from producing high-heeled women’s shoes with red soles.
Essentially, the judge refused a request by Christian Louboutin, who brought the suit, to stop the sale of women’s shoes with red soles by competitor Yves Saint Laurent S.A.S., another French company based in Paris. Though the ruling came at an early stage of consideration of a lawsuit, the judge said it will probably be tossed out.
So why, might you ask, did the judge say this?
He said that Louboutin’s ownership claim to the red sole would harm competition not only in high fashion shoes, but potentially in the markets for other fashion articles as well, “putting makers of dresses, coats, bags, hats and gloves in fear of lawsuits”.
Next he said, Louboutin would not be able to defend an “overly broad” trademark. By this he meant that a monopoly on the color red would hinder competition among other manufacturers. He gave a great quote….”It would be as if Picasso had sued Monet, saying he painted his water lilies with a distinctive indigo that Picasso used on his images of water”.
Finally, effectively trying to trademark a particular shade of red would invite endless legal challenges and force judges to become “an arbiter of fashion design.” The judge went on to say “What about hostile color grabs in the markets for low-fashion shoes? Or for sports shoes? Or expanding beyond footwear, what about inner linings, collars, or buttons on coats, jackets, or dresses in both women’s and men’s apparel?”
So bottom line in all this drama that has had the fashion industry all in a tizzy lately? One of the lawyers perhaps put it best… “No designer should be able to monopolize a color in fashion,”
This is the kind of stuff that comes up in trademark lawsuits, especially for very big and famous brands and when there is THIS much money at stake, there’s no question that no expense will be spared in attempting to win this fight.
This is not the kind of thing that is likely to happen to a little start-up company but you have to remember, little companies turn into BIG ONES with BIG problems like this one, so you always have to be thinking about who you are today and who you just might be tomorrow!