Red Shoes

The US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit released its decision today in Christian Louboutin v. Yves Saint Laurent reversing the lower court in part, concluding that a single colour can be a trademark in the fashion industry and “Louboutin’s trademark, consisting of a red, lacquered outsole on a high fashion woman’s shoe, has acquired limited ‘secondary meaning’ as a distinctive symbol that identifies the Louboutin brand.”

The decision, Christian Louboutin S.A. v. Yves Saint Laurent Am. Holding, Inc. (11-3303-cv) reverses the District Court which had held that because a single colour can never be protected by trademark in the fashion industry, Louboutin’s trademark was likely not enforceable. It therefore refused to issue a preliminary injunction.

In the closely watched case, a number of amicus curiae made submissions including the International Trademark Association (INTA), Tiffany & Co and several law professors.

In today’s decision, the Court of Appeals for the 2nd circuit limited Louboutin’s trademark (3361597) to “uses in which the red outsole contrasts with the remainder of the shoe (known as the ‘upper’).”  Therefore, the Court held, Yves Saint Laurent’s shoes of a monochrome design did not use the modified trademark. The court affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded the proceeding for consideration of the counterclaims.

Thanks to Ashlee Froese of Canada Fashion Law for tweeting about the decision this morning. Some additional commentary on the decision is available on the Wall Street Journal Law Blog.