Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Can You Trademark the Color Red?


For those of you that don't keep up with the fashion world, Christian Louboutin makes really, really fancy shoes.  For a trained eye, Louboutins are easily identifiable because they generally have an eye-catching red sole.  According to some updates from around the interwebs, the red sole is the subject of a nasty dust-up between high end fashion houses.

Louboutin is suing Yves Saint Laurent for trademark violations. YSL, it seems, has produced four shoes that are red all over, including the soles. A nice article from the New York Times (authored by Harvard prof Jeannie Suk) runs through some of the main legal points:

Louboutin has invested plenty in that red sole and successfully linked the sole’s shade with the shoemaker. Since a main purpose of trademark law is to protect one’s investment in reputation, Louboutin’s sole-saving efforts are understandable. But red; it’s a color. An interlocking LV on a Louis Vuitton handbag or a Nike swoosh on a sneaker is one thing, some say. But monopolizing a color ... just doesn’t seem right.

Suk predicts that the court will not allow Louboutin to monopolize the color red, but she thinks that Congress needs to clarify to rules surrounding intellectual property and fashion.

Steve Clowney


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