Common Thread: Color Wars



By Shelisa Melendez

A five letter word has everyone anxious to claim what they call their own: color.

Over the past few years, shoe designer Christian Louboutin (pronounced Lou-boo-ton) has become extremely popular with his unique red-soled shoe, with an average cost of $700 a pair.

Many celebrities have been seen sporting the hard to miss red-soled shoes, which have essentially become a trademark for the designer, making them even more of a must-have. It’s simple, red-soled shoes equals Louboutins. Right? Well, that may no longer be the case.

In April, Louboutin filed a lawsuit against Yves Saint Laurent for covering the bottom of their shoes in red. It should be noted that the YSL shoe collection covered the bottom of their shoes with other colors as well, not just red.

The judge initially denied the injunction, saying the designer cannot have a monopoly over one color. Since April, Louboutin has filed an appeal.

Louboutin isn’t the only company that believes they have sole ownership of a specific color and its placement. Luxury jeweler, Tiffany & Co. has recently decided to step-in and offer support.

Tiffany & Co. filed an amicus curiae brief (a fancy term for a brief written by someone not involved in the case adding their two cents) last week in favor of the Louboutin appeal. Why would Tiffany & Co. involve themselves?

Well, let’s just say Tiffany & Co. is well-known for a certain shade of blue, “Tiffany Blue” to be exact.

In 1998 Tiffany & Co. filed a trademark to protect its blue boxes, bags, pouches, etc., and if the judge decides to uphold the original decision in the Louboutin case, the signature “Tiffany Blue” color may be in jeopardy to copycats.

A decision is expected early next year.

“We are enormously pleased that Tiffany has weighed in,” Louboutin attorney Harley Lewin said in a Women’s Wear Daily article. “Tiffany has not only agreed with our arguments, but it also put forth arguments that strengthened the case and made the point that the [earlier] decision should be reversed.”

According to a Wall Street Journal blog, a lawyer for Tiffany told WWD that the jewelry company “is not taking sides in this dispute. We are only trying to assure that this area of the law is not disturbed by an overbroad decision in the lower court.”

I for one believe that both Louboutin and Tiffany & Co. have established such strong branding recognition with their colors, and should be trademarked as such.

However, the question of boundaries is still presented.

For instance, should Paris Hilton then be sued for the pink-soled shoes in her shoe collection?