They said/We said: Christian Louboutin is seeing red after court allows YSL to use his signature soles

Photography by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Thought your red soles were the last thing that set your Loubs apart from the rest? Well, think again. Yesterday, Judge Victor Marrero denied shoe-design demigod Christian Louboutin from holding the claim on the shade from Yves Saint Laurent, who had manufactured similarly soled models. The brand battle started up earlier this year when Louboutin filed a lawsuit against YSL for producing the heels, which it felt infringed on an established signature.

Although Louboutin won a trademark in order to protect its precious red soles back in 2008, it wasn’t enough to anchor a victory this time around. Other companies, such as Tiffany & Co., do hold rights to colour; however, the context is a bit different. Tiffany’s signature blue box is limited to packaging and doesn’t affect the creative input or design of actual products. The judge’s decision is really only the beginning, as he ordered the parties to return to court next week. It seems that he would like to reconsider the issuing of Louboutin’s trademark altogether and possibly have it revoked.

What could this cancellation mean in the grand scheme of things? We can only imagine the flood of high-street knockoffs that would follow suit. Louboutins have become instantly recognizable and immensely popular among the masses—frequently photographed on celebs and featured in shows like Sex and the City. That being said, one brand having a monopoly over a colour just isn’t fair to the creative aspirations of other designers. The court even compared the case to an imaginary suit between Monet and Picasso. One artist claiming rights over the colour blue, despite distinct artistic visions, just seems a bit absurd.


Forbes: “In the wake of this decision, it will be interesting to see whether other designers go down the path that YSL has now opened.  Where will the red soles turn up next?” [Forbes]

Judge Victor Marrero: “Because in the fashion industry color serves ornamental and aesthetic functions vital to robust competition, the court finds that Louboutin is unlikely to be able to prove that its red outsole brand is entitled to trademark protection.” [The Wall Street Journal]

Harley Lewin, Louboutin’s lawyer: “We are profoundly disappointed in Judge Marrero’s decision. Although we are still studying it, it appears he has decided that in the fashion industry, one colour should not serve as a trademark.” [The Cut]

David Bernstein, YSL’s lawyer: “We’re gratified that Judge Marrero has agreed with YSL that no designer should be allowed to monopolize a single color for an article of apparel. As Judge Marrero indicated, YSL designers are artists and, like other artists, they should have the right to use the full palette of colors in designing their fashions for each season.” [The Cut]


Jordan Porter, fashion market editor: “There’s no doubt that the red lacquered sole is synonymous with Louboutin, but I have to agree with the judge on this one. I could understand an uproar about blatant knockoffs, but YSL is an ingenious accessory mecca in it’s own right. What I’m more interested in with this story is getting into that shoe-filled courtroom—if Showtime played these Red Shoe Diaries, I’d be glued to my screen.”