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Shoe Designer Wins Right To Protect Red Soles

A ruling grants French footwear designer Christian Louboutin a trademark protection on his shoes' distinctive red soles.
Christian Louboutin's signature red soles got new legal protections this week.

French shoe designer Christian Louboutin has won the right to protect his signature red soles from copycats.

Just in time for New York Fashion Week, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday in a luxury battle that's pitted Louboutin against fellow Paris-based luxury label Yves Saint Laurent.

Louboutin had sued for infringement of its trademark sole, registered in 2008, asking $1 million in damages and specifically pointing to two scarlet-soled shoes in YSL's Resort 2011 collection.

The new ruling grants Louboutin exclusive trademark protection, as long as the color of the shoe differs from the sole.

The downside, for Louboutin: The YSL shoes in question are monochrome red on both the upper and the sole. The court ruled that other footwear designers can coat the bottoms of shoes red only when the entire pump is red, The Wall Street Journal notes.

The ruling got mixed reviews. "It is good news for the fashion world that an iconic part of a brand has been granted protection in this way," Simon Bennett, a Fox Williams Fashion Law Group partner, told The Telegraph.

But while YSL can continue to make its monochrome red shoes, the label's lawyer, David Bernstein, griped to the WSJ that "No designer should ever be allowed to monopolize a color."

As YSL has filed counterclaims against Louboutin, the case will now return to the district court for further proceedings, the WSJ reports.

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