A red shoe blog
‘Red Shoe Diaries‘ was the name of an ‘erotic drama’ (ie soft porn) series produced by Playboy Enterprises which aired on American cable TV in the ’90s.
But to a trade mark lawyer, red shoes more likely mean those red-soled stilettos so coveted by many fashionista females.
For those fashion cognoscenti, red-soled shoes mean one thing – Christian Louboutin. Or so Louboutin would have it. His company has tried (with varying degrees of success) to assert a monopoly over the colour red applied to the sole of a shoe.
There have been long-running legal battles in the USA and Europe. In Australia the trade mark was registered after initial opposition from Yves St Laurent. So now Louboutin has, since 2013, had exclusive rights in Australia on the colour red (Pantone no 18.1663TP) applied to the sole of a shoe.
I well remember a presentation a couple of years ago by a New York based attorney who was acting against Louboutin in the New York courts. He commented on the distinctive ‘pop!’ of red colour that you see when a women wearing red-soled shoes walks away from you. Unfortunately for Louboutin, that is not the whole story in trying to claim exclusive rights in such shoes.
In Europe, their exclusive rights are narrower than in Australia, being limited only to red sole shoes where the upper is in a contrasting colour (ie. not red). (So an all-red shoe does not infringe Louboutin’s rights.) The trade mark as registered in Benelux was challenged and first it was invalidated by a Brussels court (March 2014) then restored by the Brussels Court of Appeal (November 2014).
Last month the District Court in The Hague referred the Benelux trade mark registration to the European Union Court of Justice in Brussels.
The saga is a good reminder that trade marks can be so much more than just a clever name or logo. It pays to think creatively about your brand(s). Come and talk to us if you’d like some advice.