The fashion world may have received yet another stifling blow from the federal court’s decision in Christian Louboutin S.A. v. Yves Saint Laurent America, Inc., et al., in which the court refused to grant Louboutin’s request for a preliminary injunction against YSL on claims of alleged trademark infringement resulting from YSL’s red-soled fashion heels arguably similar to Louboutin’s. The court ruled that Louboutin’s claim to “the color red” and its 2008 U.S. federal registration covering “women’s high fashion designer footwear” were “overly broad” and “inconsistent with the scheme of trademark registration established by the Lanham Act.” The court further reasoned that, “[a]warding one participant in the designer shoe market a monopoly on the color red would impermissibly hinder competition among other participants.”
In light of the court’s analysis, it is arguable whether this decision has, in fact, encouraged or stifled fashion innovation. On the one hand, this decision may have opened the door for other shoe designers to start using the color red or another arguably distinctive color on the soles of their fancy (or not-so-fancy) footwear, which in turn may further competition in the marketplace, as the court intended. On the other hand, this decision could potentially discourage fashion designers from maximizing their creativity and innovation in designing apparel and footwear out of fear that third-party copy cats will seek to imitate or trade off of their designs.
Undoubtedly, the court’s decision presents both opportunities and risks in the fashion industry that are yet to be revealed. However, as for those fashionistas who paid a pretty penny for Louboutin’s signature red soles and for Louboutin himself, does this decision have the potential to negatively impact the value and/or notoriety of Louboutin’s precious footwear?