CLoub To YSL: “Back Off My Red”

by Melissa Fox   | 

Christian Louboutin sues YSL

Maybe I’ve been living under a rock, but I didn’t learn about patent trolls until this year. I admit that I’m naive. I don’t like to think there are fat cats in greasy suits buying up patents and sitting on them, solely for the purpose of suing some unsuspecting developer for stepping on their “turf”. As disheartening as that may be to future inventors, it’s a reality that you can be sued just  for coming up with your idea second.

Not to be left out of the “getting money for nothing” fray, apparently (and much to my personal chagrin) the egos over at Christian Louboutin have decided to try to put the kibosh on YSL to prevent their rival company from selling “infringing footwear” with red soles. Have you heard of this mess? If you haven’t, here’s a recap: according to legal documents filed by C Loub’s lawyers in an NYC district court this past April, “YSL is seeking to take unfair advantage of the enourmous goodwill and brand recognition in the Red Sole Mark that we have developed over the past two decades.”

Sticking to the high road, YSL’s crack defense countered by citing the popularity of red outsoles in the French court of Louis XIV in the 1600s and Dorthy’s ruby slippers in the Wizard of Oz in 1939 (although, to be fair, if they were alive, Louboutin would probably try to sue their pantaloons off too).

“Louboutin’s attempt to monopolize the use of red outsoles, even to the extent of claiming that no other designer can make an all-red shoe is unsupported by law, defies common sense and would unduly restrict the design options available to competitors in the market,” according to YSL’s counterclaim.

Did your eyes just roll out of your head and across the room? Rich get richer, baby.

Making the most sense in this ridiculously childish argument, district court judge Victor Marrero washed his hands of the case by refusing  to grant Louboutin the injunction: “Suppose that Monet, having just painted his water lilies, encounters a legal challenge from Picasso. … Picasso alleges that Monet, in depicting the colour of water, used a distinctive Indigo that Picasso claims was the same or too close to the exquisite shade that Picasso declares is ‘the colour of melancholy,’ the hallmark of his Blue Period.”

Allowing one artist or designer to appropriate an entire shade would unduly hinder not just commerce and competition, but art as well, according to Marrero.

How can you patent a colour? It’s not intellectual property. You can’t INVENT a colour. And if we’re going to be really nitpicky, maybe we should invite the makers of the nail polish he used to lacquer his first pair of stilettos into the mix to sue him for their cut of his enormous profits.

I know it’s their “signature”, but that red sole only sells an idea, access to an elite club (who among us can really drop $600 on a pair of six inch heels?). Even forgetting that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Loutboutin should ignore this bull malarkey and concentrate on the quality of the finished product and not the colour that’s going to wear off when you wear them anyway. Not that it matters much, but my love for that red sole just died a little. That company is so successful, and that brand so well known, they don’t even have to pay for advertising. They lend shoes out to stars and for editorials and that’s all the coverage they need. He must really be hard up for some cash – $1 million can buy a lot of tacky straw hats. Your reputation, on the other hand… it used to be priceless, but now it’s just free.

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