In 1992, Christian Louboutin felt that a pair of his shoes “lacked energy”. He then painted the sole of the shoes with red nail polish and voilà, a trademark is set. Or so he thought.
He registered the color in 2008. He thought his color was protected, just like Tiffany & Co.’s blue color is protected by trademark.
Luxurious brand Yves Saint Laurent created a shoe called Palais pumps, for the pre-spring 2011/summer 2012 season, where the soles match the upper part of the shoe. As you can see from the picture, they come in navy and pink as well as red. Apparently YSL was using the red just as they used other colors to match, aesthetically creating a monochromatic shoe.
Christian Louboutin, however, feels that this is a direct infringement on his china red soled shoes. He has filed a suit for $1 million in damages against YSL. To make matters difficult for him, the judge presiding over the case is saying that his trademark contract was based on a mistake that you cannot trademark a color in the fashion world.
Personally, I find myself going back and forth on this situation. On the one hand I totally see Christian Louboutin’s point. Everyone knows that a red sole mean a Christian Louboutin shoe. However, to a certain extent of course he can’t call red “his”. I am thinking that his red is considered “China red” and therefor is a specific red. Not red in general. I think I am leaning to the opinion that his specific red, much like Coca Cola’s red, should belong to him.