Saving Soles: The Limited Practical Application of Christian Louboutin v. Yves Saint Laurent

June 1, 2013

In 2011, the prominent women’s shoe designer Christian Louboutin took fashion competitor Yves Saint Laurent to court to protect a trademark of Louboutin’s red-lacquered shoe sole design. To the industry’s surprise, the district court ruled that an entity in the fashion industry could never trademark a single-color feature because the use of a single color would always be functional in fashion. In 2012, the Second Circuit overruled the district court, stating that, in theory, a fashion designer could trademark a single-color feature. However, the court modified Louboutin’s trademark to protect only red soles that contrast with the color of the remainder of the shoe, thus absolving Yves Saint Laurent’s monochromatic design from the trademark infringement claim. This Recent Development analyzes the Second Circuit’s ruling that left Louboutin’s trademark intact for now but fell short of settling the issue of whether single-color trademarks in fashion can coexist with the aesthetic functionality doctrine.