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.)