Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Louboutin loses case to stop Zara selling red-soled shoes

  • Designer had sued High Street chain for copying his heels.
  • French court rules customers will not be confused between designer version and cut-price pair and orders Louboutin to pay compensation.
The distinctive scarlet soles have become an instantly recognizable marker of the brand, a stamp of taste and quality.

But Christian Louboutin’s red-bottomed shoes could face competition from high street lookalikes after a court ruled fashion chain Zara could sell heels in the same colour.

Louboutin initially sued the Spanish brand in 2008, claiming that an open- toed red-soled shoe it was selling for £40 was similar to its Yo Yo style.

However a French court ruled that Zara’s cut-price shoe could not be confused with that made by the high-end designer.

And last week the Cour de Cassation – the final court of appeal – upheld the decision.

It also ruled that Louboutin, whose shoes are favoured by celebrities including Victoria Beckham and Sarah Jessica Parker and cost hundreds of pounds a pair, must pay the chain £2,000 in compensation.

Alexis Mourot, group chief operating officer and general manager of Christian Louboutin, said the company would continue defending its soles.

In 2008, Louboutin registered a trademark, claiming the exclusive right to make shoes with red soles for women’s high fashion designer footwear.

And last year the shoemaker accused designer Yves Saint Laurent of copying his celebrated red-soled footwear, when he used a similar theme in his 2011 resort collection.

That lawsuit resulted in a high-court appeal case in the US, the verdict of which is yet to be decided.

Earlier this year, Louboutin told French newspaper Libération why the cause is important to him and his brand identity and that he is aware he cannot 'monopolies' a colour.

He said: I understand that, but it is a red in a specific context, there is Ferrari red [and] Hermès orange.

Even in the food industry, Cadbury recently won a lawsuit against Nestlé for using purple packaging.

All this proves that the colours play a part in a brand's identity. I'm not saying that red usually belongs to me - I repeat that this is about a precise red, used in a precise location.

Louboutin said that he came up with the idea for his red sole heels, which are favoured by celebrities including Sarah Jessica Parker and Victoria Beckham, nearly 20 years ago, when he painted red nail polish on the black soles of a pair of women's shoes.

His lawsuit against YSL reads: Mr Louboutin is the first designer to develop the idea of having red soles on women's shoes.

The location of the bright colour on the outsole of a woman’s pump is said to provide an alluring flash of red when a woman walks down the street, or on the red carpet of a special event.

Mail Online – June 11, 2012 

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