In a legal battle over red soles, luxe shoe brand Christian Louboutin won a limited victory over design house Yves Saint Laurent when an appeals court granted trademark protection for some of its footwear with lacquered red bottoms.
The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan overturned a lower-court decision by deciding that Louboutin shoes that have red soles combined with a different colored top are protected under trademark, while a shoe design that is red all over cannot be protected,
That means Louboutin can theoretically prevent another designer from putting out a black stiletto with a red sole, for example, but not a red stiletto with a red sole. The contrasting red bottom is "an identifying mark firmly associated with" Christian Louboutin, the court decided.
Last year a federal trial judge dismissed Louboutin's request for a temporary injunction to prevent Yves Saint Laurent from selling red-soled shoes that allegedly resembled its own designs.
The appeals court did not grant the injunction, however, and sent the case back to the trial judge.
"We hold that the lacquered red outsole, as applied to a shoe with an 'upper' of a different color, has 'come to identify and distinguish' the Louboutin brand and is therefore a distinctive symbol that qualifies for trademark protection," the court said.
Both companies are claiming victory.
Louboutin lawyer Harley Lewin told Reuters that the ruling will enable the French company "to protect a life's work as the same as embodied in the red sole found on his women's luxury shoes."
Jyotin Hamid, a Yves Saint Laurent lawyer, said in an interview that the ruling is a win for his client because the court affirmed that its monochromatic red shoes did not infringe on copyright.
Hamid said the company, which has made red-soled shoes since the 1970s, was not going to avoid making those shoes now.
"This is not a directive against YSL whatsoever" to stop making red-soled shoes, Hamid said. "There is only vindication that what we are doing right now is fine."