Conflict Between Brands Over The Famous Red Sole

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Conflict between brands over the famous red sole

In 2008, the Yves Saint Laurent brand decided to bring new products to the market that would be sold in establishments such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman. It was a series of red sole shoes. This sole was used in several of its most emblematic models, such as Tribute, Palais and Woodstock, but only in some of its versions of the selected models. 

The conflict began when this information reached the ears of the footwear designer Christian Louboutin, whose identity mark is precisely the use of red color in the sole of his heel shoes to differentiate his mark; Practice that he has carried out since its inception in the profession in the late 70s and early 80s. The designer, then, contacted the brand (for which he worked in his beginnings) to ask them to stop selling these models, more, not receiving an answer from them, he decided to undertake legal reprisals. Several sources differ in the year, but confirm that Louboutin registered the red sole as a symbol of its brand and part of its intellectual property, especially the color known as “Chinese red”, called Pantone 18-1663 px. According to the magazine "The Fashion Law", Louboutin would have registered this element in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“Upsto”) at the beginning of January 2008, although ABC News says it was already in 1997. 

That is why, seeing his requests ignored from him, at the beginning of April 2011, Christian Louboutin sued the American subsidiary Yves Saint Laurent for one million dollars for damages and prejudices. "The defendants use shoes that are practically identical to the brand‘ Red Sole ’of the plaintiff, which can cause and, in fact, it is causing confusion, errors and deceptions between the buyer public," says the demand filed in New York. David Brenstein, representative lawyer of Yves Saint Laurent, explained that “the use of the red sole does not imply the plagiarism of any other design. Yves Saint Laurent is one of the most original and celebrated fashion houses in the world, and has been using red soles to give life to its style traditions even before Louboutin began to design footwear ”. 

Given this, and doubting the validity of the red sole registration by Louboutin, a New York judge determined that a brand could not have privileges about a color, failing in favor of YSL. He declared that YSL had not carried out unfair competition or commercial brand violation in August 2011. “If Louboutin has the Chinese red for the outer sole in female design shoes, another designer can also claim the exclusive use of another red tone, or even the color of Louboutin for the inner sole, while another could, such as the colonizers of the world in past eras dividing territories and conquered markets, place its flag especially the heel for its Chinese red, ”said the judge. However, while, on the other side of the world, a French court opted for Zara in a similar trial in which the fashion brand was in a position similar to that of the female luxury shoes designer. 

Louboutin decided to resort to the initial decision of the judge in October 2011. The designer’s lawyers filed an appeal before the United States Court, recognizing the brand that does not seek to register the color by itself. "I understand that you cannot register a color, but it is red in a specific context, just like Ferrari has its red and her orange, even in Cadbury food has gained a demand against Nestlé for using a purple wrapping," he explains The designer in an interview that granted the French newspaper Liberion. There are even similar legal conflicts that the Tiffany & Co brand. He has carried out to defend his iconic blue tone, although the brand’s lawyer said that he did not want to position himself in either side. 

Louboutin continued to clarify that “all these examples show that the color plays an important part of the identity of a brand. I am not saying that red belongs to me, but that it is a certain red in a very concrete place."In response, Yves Saint Laurent presented an appeal document, and the two brands were cited to appear in the courts on January 24, 2012. After exposing the latest arguments by the plaintiff and seeing that he had no intention of leaving the case, Ysl’s lawyers responded to the following: “Yves Saint Laurent undertook legal actions to respond to the lawsuit of Christian Louboutin in April last year and Now he has submitted documents to request the abandonment of his complaints against Christian Louboutin.”The judge issued his resolution on September 5, 2012 and any attempt ceased to resort to the sentence. 

The court recognized the red sole as a registered trademark except in cases of mono chromatism of the model, that is, when the shoe in question is entirely of that color. "The conclusion of the District Court that a particular color can never serve as a registered trademark in the fashion industry is based on an incorrect understanding of the doctrine of aesthetic functionality and was, therefore, an error," he said In his ruling the judge of appeals in New York. Christian Louboutin thus came out of the conflict with, nothing more and less than another of the best known brands globally. More this was not and would be his only battle for the famous ‘Red Sole’, which would bring him more problems against Carmen Steffens and a Dutch footwear brand. 


  • Alexander, e. (2012). YSL CLOSES Louboutin Court Case. Vogue Uk. Charlie. (2011). 
  • Christian Louboutin demands Yves Saint Laurent. Trendencies. EFE. (2011). 
  • Louboutin demands Yves Saint Laurent for copying his red sole shoes. Fashion network. López, l. (2011). 
  • Louboutin demands Yves Saint Laurent for copying his red sole. The vanguard. Maza, J. Yo. (2020). 
  • Introduction to Fashion Law: patents, image rights and corporate reputation. Universidad Da Coruña. Fashion. (2012). 
  • YSL-Louboutin, end of the war for the red sole? is. Tfl. (2020). 
  • Christian Louboutin: Red Soles, High Heels, and Global Quest For TradeMark Rights. The Fashion Law. (2012). 
  • The ‘Red Battle’ is definitely reached to an end. The world.

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