FASHION LAW: CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN VS. BELGIAN ANTI-ISLAM POLITICAL PARTY

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French shoe maestro Christian Louboutin and his signature red-soled stilettos has won lawsuit. The lawsuit was against a Belgian political party that impersonated his red soles in an anti-Islam campaign. The campaign featured former Miss Belgium and senator, Anke Van dermeersch, with bare legs and Louboutin-clad feet. Far-right Flemish nationalist group, Vlaams Belang, led the movement displaying images of various skirt lengths condemned by Sharia regulations ranging from the ankle (“provocateur“) to the knee (“whore“) to the upper thigh (“stoning“).

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Notoriously litigious shoemaker Christian Louboutin, known for the shiny red-lacquered soles, claimed that the handling and usage of his trademarks in political ads would tarnish his image. While in court, Van dermeersch stated that she is being subjected to a “political dress code” adding: “Are politicians still allowed to dress the way they want? It seems that not only Islam is intolerant … A legal judgment on a dress code for politicians would be a surreal precedent.” Apart from the absurd argument concerning reputational damage, there was no legal basis for such a dress code.

With the myriad of lawsuits acclaiming towards unwarranted associations, the French powerhouse did not stand down towards the Flemish anti-Islam group: Women Against Islamisation. Come mid-October, it was reported that Louboutin had won the court over. Wearing a brand’s trademark was normally classified as flattering for most design houses: the exposure, the press, and, foremost, the representation of the aesthetic; however, to promote under the basis of a political agenda was a different story, the group had reissued a new set of posters recently with yellow soles instead of red. The group removed all signage within 24 hours of the court’s ruling.

With the consistent series of brands having their images used without consent, this won’t be the last we hear about infringement and the no tolerance bull from Christian Louboutin.


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Similarly, in 2011 Christian Louboutin filed a trademark infringement charge against Yves Saint Laurent on crimson-soled shoes. The firm was expecting that the YSL shoe design be revoked and sought $1 million US dollars in damages; however, in August 2011 the U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero denied the firm’s request. The judge questioned the validity of the trademark stating

“Louboutin’s claim would cast a red cloud over the whole industry, cramping what other designers do, while allowing Louboutin to paint with a full palette.” Judge Marrero also stated, “Louboutin is unlikely to be able to prove 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.”

In his thirty-two page decision, Judge Marrero compared fashion designers to painters and noted how creativity for both is dependent upon using color as “an indispensable medium” that “plays a unique role.” – wiki source.

Be that as it may, in September 2012 the court ruled that Louboutin retains the exclusive right to use the color red on the bottom of its shoes whenever the outer portion of the shoe is any color besides. This enabled other brands to be able to continue retailing shoes with red soles as long as the entire shoe is red. This was relevant to the Design Protect Act under copyright, infringement, and copyright laws protected under the CFDA.

Louboutin had always prided himself as the originator of crimson bottoms sanctioning the trademark of his soles since ’08. During this trial, Christian did not proclaim to Yves Saint Laurent that the brand may never use red on any part of a shoe, he simply implied that the red-bottoms would cause confusion to consumers; therefore, recognition will be forever loss among the masses. This disorientation could destroy the distinctive Louboutin brand if the market were to be flooded with lookalikes. Eventually as we stated above, Louboutin triumphed in the claim over the placement of the red-lacquered soles, which is what Christian was defending all along.

News reference via BBC News + NYMag, Photo via Allure + StraitTimes

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