Earlier this past June, designer shoe company Christian Louboutin filed a lawsuit in a New York court against Charles Jourdan, also a French shoemaker, for trademark infringement. The unmistakable red lacquered sole is Louboutin’s trademark, over which Louboutin asserted infringement on the part of Jourdan and the retailer DSW for selling red-soled shoes. Accusing the Jourdan shoes of being “counterfeit”, Louboutin also targeted DSW for selling the shoes in Brooklyn and Manhattan stores, stating that Jourdan supplied the retailer with the shoes.
But in late June, a status conference was held, and according to Louboutin’s lawyer, the three companies came to an “amicable resolution” in settling the case. However, the actual terms cannot be disclosed. This suit involving Charles Jourdan and DSW came to a much quicker conclusion through less dramatic means in comparison to the headlining suit Louboutin filed against yet another French designer, Yves Saint Laurent for the same red sole trademark infringement back in 2011. The New York federal court judge ruled that the trademark, registered in 2008, was too broad to hold up under legal protection and the use of color is too integral to competition in fashion, and declined Louboutin’s demand for preliminary injunction. In September 2012, the suit was brought to court again, and this time, the court recognized Louboutin’s trademark for having “secondary meaning” by way of the contrast between the red sole and a different color on the rest of the shoe. Still, because the YSL shoes in question were entirely red, not just on the soles, the court permitted continuing sale of the shoes.
Perhaps it was because of this 2012 ruling that the case was comparatively easily settled between Louboutin and Jourdan, since it made clear the defining characteristic of Louboutin’s trademark red sole and recognized it as such. It seems that with enough clout in the fashion industry and longstanding popularity in providing luxury footwear, a designer like Louboutin can successfully trademark a protectable design consisting simply of the juxtaposition of a single color.
WWD. (July 16, 2013). Christian Louboutin and Charles Jourdan Settle Suit. Retrieved on July 16, 2013 from http://www.wwd.com/fashion-news/fashion-scoops/louboutin-jourdan-settle-7055229?module=Business-hero
The New York Times. (September 5, 2012). Shoe Designer Can Protect Its ‘Pop’ of Red’, Court Says. Retrieved on July 16, 2013 from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/06/nyregion/court-rules-louboutin-can-enforce-a-trademark-on-its-red-outsoles.html?_r=0
The New York Times. August 10, 2011). Designer Loses Bid to Protect Signature Shoes. Retrieved on July 16, 2013 from http://runway.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/10/red-faces-at-louboutin/
Stock image: http://foter.com/photo/hard-work/