Fashion Statement or Trademark Infringement?

Many art forms and cultural industries have some form of regulations and protection for artists and creators. Fashion, however, is an industry where copyright and trademarks is not as clearly defined, hence the proliferation of knock offs and copy-cat lines from Couture houses to discount stores.

In 2008 Christian Louboutin registered a trademark for shoes with red soles. Recently, fashion house Yves St Laurent started selling also selling shoes with red soles. Believing that their trademark prevented this type of conduct Christian Louboutin launched a lawsuit in New York against YSL for trademark infringement and sought an injunction prohibiting YSL from continuing to sell their red-soled shoes.

The question before the court was whether or or not the red-soled shoes served a fashion function or was a legitimate trademark?

The verdict? The court ruled that in the fashion industry, color serves ornamental and aesthetic functions which cannot be trademarked.

YSL may continue to sell their shoes; fashion and intellectual property will continue to be an unsettled area of the law.