Yves Saint Laurent is firing back against allegations that it stole Christian Louboutin‘s trademark red soles this spring. The French fashion house, which was sued by Louboutin earlier this year for selling a pair of red-soled shoes, says Louboutin didn’t invent red soles and therefore can’t prevent anyone else from making shoes that feature them.
YSL points to a number of other shoemakers who have used red soles since the beginning of shoedom, citing
“dozens of footwear models” that came well before Louboutin sold his first pair. The house said it also sold red-soled shoes as far back as the 1970s, decades before Louboutin set up shop in 1991.
“Red outsoles are a commonly used ornamental design feature in footwear, dating as far back as the red shoes worn by King Louis XIV in the 1600s and the ruby red shoes that carried Dorothy home in ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ ” YSL says in court papers.
The brand accuses Louboutin of using its lawsuit as an anti-competition scheme designed to get big retailers to pull YSL shoes from the shelves. But the fact of the matter is that Louboutin has a trademark on file with the US Patent and Trademark office that protects its red soles as the company’s intellectual property, and by selling a shoe with a red sole, YSL is in infringing upon that trademark. (Carmen Steffens, another company Louboutin sued recently, is also most definitely infringing upon that trademark.)
Further, the legal standard for trademark infringement is the likelihood that a consumer would mistake the infringing product for the original. There are people in this world who’ve never seen a Louboutin in person who know that red soles are the brand’s calling card. Now, we’re not lawyers, but it seems to us that YSL is going to have an uphill battle trying to win this case.