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Recent Federal Trademark Decision Has Famous Fashion Company Seeing Red

A recent federal appeals court case demonstrates that trademarks can go well beyond symbols, designs and words.  Even a single color can qualify for federal trademark protection. 

The case involved a lawsuit by a high-end women’s shoe company, Louboutin, against the venerable French fashion company, Yves Saint Laurent (YSL).  Louboutin’s expensive high heeled shoes feature a shiny, laquer red heel and red soles that contrast vividly with the colors of the rest of the shoe.  It obtained a federal trademark registration for the use of the color red on shoes. 

YSL began producing shoes that were completely red, including the heel.   Louboutin sued, seeking to stop YSL from producing shoes with red heels.  YSL argued that it was not possible to obtain trademark rights on something as simple as the color of a shoe, but the court disagreed.  It held that because the red heel and sole of the Louboutin shoes had become associated with the high-end designer (much like pink insulation is associated with Owings-Corning), Louboutin’s trademark was valid and could be enforced against YSL.  The court held, however, that YSL would not be prohibited from manufacturing shoes that were completely red, including a red heel, because it was the contrast between the red heel and the color of the Louboutin shoe that was Louboutin’s true mark.

The case goes to show that even a color can qualify for trademark protection if used the correct way.  Bowie & Jensen attorneys have decades of experience in advising businesses and business owners about how to build a solid trademark portfolio that distinguishes their goods and services from competitors.   Louboutin obviously received solid advice about how to build and protect its recognizable red-heel trademark, and that advice paid off in spades years later.

For more information about trademarks, including trademark protection, please contact Josh Glikin at 443-921-4233.

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