I was really sad to hear of Christian Louboutin losing his injunction against YSL for the use of his trademark sole in their Spring '11 Pallais collection. I have seen and read a few Christian Louboutin interviews and he always comes across as such a genuine person unaffected by his fame, which is rare. He is now preparing to fight his biggest battle and many feel he may loose with the Manhattan Federal Judge Victor Marrero stating:
“The court finds that Louboutin is unlikely to be able to prove that its red out sole brand is entitled to trademark protection, even if it has gained enough public recognition in the market to have acquired secondary meaning.”
The French are known for being fiercely protective of their intellectual property. So much so, that they even trademark their grapes with a system called Appellation. Now, Christian finds himself fighting to trademark the colour Pantone 18 Chinese Red, the colour he chose because he wanted people to see the red sole and identify his shoes.
The case has raised a very interesting issue and it will go down in history as, it will now change the landscape in fashion design. Many brands have an identifiable colour, examples being Tiffanie's who use Pantone 1837 Tiffany Blue, a colour trademarked by them. The difference between the case of Louboutin red and Tiffanie's blue, is that whilst Louboutin chose his colour from an existing palette, Tiffanie's made this colour and then trademarked it. And by doing so no-one else can use this particular shade. What Louboutin is fighting for is to trademark the Pantone colour, but also the exclusive use of red soles. By doing this he is trying to stop other designers using red soles and this brings us to the argument of colour depletion. As in - if every designer trademarked a colour, then there would be no colours to use. And after all, everyone is working from the same limited colour palette.
I do believe that a company should have ownership on visual creative ideas and that YSL should not have used the red sole on this basis. Fashion needs fresh ideas not copied successful ones. I feel it sheds bad light on YSL's integrity. There should be some unwritten design rules. Legally though they cannot be stopped. I look forward to hearing the outcome... Apparently, Chloe Green is now designing a Topshop shoe collection with green soles (a play on the family name). Can't wait to see those....