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Louboutin shoes

Red-soled Louboutins

We’ve heard a lot of discussion in recent weeks about copyright and trademark law on the Internet, but I’m not going there again, at least not this time.

No, this is about a different trademark infringement issue which you might or might not have heard about. Shoes. Or rather, their soles. Specifically, red soles.

At the risk of sounding terribly sexist, I’m guessing most women are aware of a famous shoe designer named Christian Louboutin whose trademark is Chinese red soles on all his shoes. Even deep in my cave, I have heard of this man’s shoes. Great idea. Red soles really pop. They’re sexy and attention-getting. Which is the whole point.

However, I’ve thought all there’s no way Louboutin can trademark the color red. Sure, he was probably the first to think of putting it on the soles of women’s high fashion shoes, but can he really keep every other shoe designer in the world from ever using red soles?

There’s an interesting article in the New York Times today about whether Louboutin can successfully sue Yves Saint Laurent for trademark infringement for producing some shoes that are red all over, not just red-soled. It’s written by a law professor and I’d have to read it at least one more time to fully understand the law involved. But I think the gist of it is, heck no you can’t trademark red soles and keep everyone else in the world from putting red on their soles. It’s a color. You can’t have an entire color all to yourself. Even as I write, I realize this is a gray area and lots of companies have trademarked specific colors. But somehow this is different. You’ll have to read the professor’s explanation.

(By the way, do real women really wear heels that high? Really? At 5’8″, I’ve spent most of my life trying to find heels low enough to keep me from towering over the men in my life.)


  1. I have never heard of Christian Louboutin, but I have to agree… very sexy. But you wouldn’t catch me dead in a pair of something like that simply because I probably would be dead from tripping and breaking my neck.

    I agree… they have to draw the line somewhere and copyrighting a color is insane – that border on a monopoly on the color red for shoes.

    • I can’t imagine these being good for anything other than sitting around at a cocktail party. Besides, as expensive as those red soles probably are, who would want to trash them by actually walking on them?

  2. Customs has been raiding “discount” importers here and confiscating knock-off shoes like these. The designer had a great idea to let people show off they are wearing his exclusive designer/expensive shoes, but not copyrightable. Back to the drawing board, dude – nice try….come up with another way to pry money out of those willing hands.

    • I’m guessing if Louboutin put a signature or logo on those red soles, he could trademark them. But it would be because of the combination of logo with a specific shade of red.

      • I believe Coke red is a specific red with a specific formula of inks that printers must use by order of Coca-Cola, itself. I don’t *believe* it’s trademarked. But even if it was, that doesn’t mean C & C or other beverage companies can’t use plain ol’ red on their cans. It seems like this is the same kind of issue.

        • Yep, Coke specifies a certain red (using a PMS number and its equivalents) to guarantee every product and ad carrying the Coke name uses the same shade of red. That’s standard procedure, to guarantee consistency. However, that shade of red is still available for the world to use on other things. A company can’t grab a color out of a sample book and say “PMS185 is our red from now on and no one else can ever use it.” They can only say “PMS185 is the red that we will always use on all of our products.” At least that’s my understanding as an editor and publisher. Maybe the fashion industry is different.

  3. The Big Pharma industry has long exploited patent manipulation. In fact, they have been so successful that they are the single most profitable industry in the world. A short engine search now shows however that the government might be waking up. The patent office, which has already issued thousands of patents on various organisms genes, including about 20% of human genes, has apparently reversed course and is balking at doing more of this. But, this won’t keep them from trying. I see the system as unfair and needing serious reform, the basic flaw being that most small businesses and individuals don’t have the resources to legally defend patents, even if they have them. Maybe copyright issues are the same. (?)


    • Thanks for the link! That’s great news. Nobody should be able to patent a gene, except maybe Mother Nature. Once somebody managed to get such a patent, everyone else felt the need to rush in for their piece of the pie. It’s rare for the government to admit it was on the wrong track with this.

      You’re right, of course. The little guy who lacks money and connections will always have a tough time defending his rights against the big guy, and a lot of big guys take advantage of that. Copyright, patents, tradmarks, etc. are pretty much alike in that respect. In the case of the shoes, I don’t have any real sense of how big Louboutin is compared to YSL. But regardless, Louboutin can no more patent red than Mother Nature can patent green. IMHO.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not. ~ Dr. Seuss

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