Color Wars: Tiffany & Co. Backs Claim That YSL Ripped Off Louboutin's Signature Red
Tiffany blue is backing up Louboutin red. The luxury jeweler filed a brief Tuesday that supports the idea that the color can be trademarked, following Christian Louboutin's April lawsuit filed against Yves Saint Laurent for coloring the soles of its shoes red. A judge denied a preliminary injunction, putting into question the validity of the red-sole trademark. Louboutin is currently appealing the case.
The action, called an amicus curiae in legalese, is the act of someone not involved in a case putting their two cents in. While Tiffany & Co. is not a part of the case, it has a lot at stake. In 1998, the company filed a trademark to protect its signature blue boxes, so if a judge upholds the Louboutin decision, Tiffany's trademark may be jeopardized.
Louboutin is happy that the luxury jeweler is standing up in its favor. "We are enormously pleased that Tiffany has weighed in," Louboutin attorney Harley Lewin, of McCarter & English LLP told WWD. "Tiffany has not only agreed with our arguments, but it also put forth arguments that strengthened the case and made the point that the [earlier] decision should be reversed."
But let's take a look a the entire picture here. Although Louboutin filed a lawsuit against YSL for violating the 2008 trademark on its red soles, the shoe styles mentioned in the case from YSL's 2011 cruise collection — the Tribute, Tribtoo, Palais, and Woodstock — come in a rainbow of colors that match their soles; red bottoms for the red styles, blue ones for the blue shoes, green on the green heels, and so on.
In his August ruling, federal judge Victor Marrero wrote: "Because in the fashion industry color serves ornamental and aesthetic functions vital to robust competition, the court finds that Louboutin is unlikely to be able to prove that its red outsole brand is entitled to trademark protection, even if it has gained enough public recognition in the market to have acquired secondary meaning."
Court papers filed by YSL argued last May that: "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.' As an industry leader who has devoted his entire professional life to women's footwear, Mr. Louboutin either knew or should have known about some or all of the dozens of footwear models that rendered his sworn statement false."
While we do associate red soles with Louboutin and robin's egg blue boxes with Tiffany's, this whole case is sort of absurd. It's not as if YSL was specifically trying to copy a pair of Louboutins. After all, what is a rainbow of shoes without the color red? We agree with the judge's initial ruling that a designer should not have a "monopoly" over one color. While certain colors may be synonymous with specific brands, the labels should not have control over the color. If a fashion company copies a concept and color made famous by an iconic brand, won't the joke be on them after they are labeled a copycat anyway?