Why Louboutin Matters: What Red Soles Teach Us About the Strategy of Trade Dress Protection

Anyone who sees a woman’s shoe with red soles instantly recognizes the Louboutin brand. Christian Louboutin, one of the most famous and sought-after designers of luxury footwear and fashion, chose a carmine red sole for his high fashion women’s shoes and registered the red soles as a trademark to protect his brand.

“Trade dress” is a type of trademark that refers to the design or packaging of a product. All market sectors have “trade dress” marks, for example, the splash page for Google, the shape of a Maker’s Mark bottle and its red wax top, and the shape of a Ferrari.

When Yves Saint Laurent created an overall red women’s high heeled shoe with red uppers, red platform heels and red soles, to Louboutin this was trademark infringement and the retailer sought to enforce its trademark in U.S. and European courts.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found the brand’s trademark consisted in a red sole that contrasted with the rest of the shoe and found no infringement where the entire shoe was red. The Court also limited the scope of Louboutin’s trademark registration.

In Europe, Louboutin brought several lawsuits against shoemakers who made women’s shoes with contrasting red soles. This litigation was successful when based on a limited scope of registration, i.e., contrasting red soles.

Over the last few years, the red sole on women’s high fashion shoes adopted by designer Christian Louboutin has lent itself to a case study on how to register trade dress marks and how to enforce them. This analysis provides practical registration guidelines and strategic enforcement advice on how to acquire, register and enforce trade dress rights in the U.S. and Europe. This article discusses practical registration pointers and winning litigation strategies.

Read the full article, “Why Louboutin Matters: What Red Soles Teach Us About the Strategy of Trade Dress Protection.”


 

The article entitled “Why Louboutin Matters: What Red Soles Teach Us About the Strategy of Trade Dress Protection,” authored by Anne H. Hocking and Anne Desmousseaux was published in the November/December 2015 (Vol. 105, No. 6) issue of the International Trademark Association’s Trademark Reporter®.