In the world of fashion, branding is everything. Icons and designs become unmistakable symbols of wealth and power. In some cases, all it comes down to is a color, especially in the case of Christian Louboutin’s shoes which have become famous for their lacquered red sole. From celebrities on the red carpet, to the bottom of Oprah’s feet which you can barely (but probably strategically) get a peek at on her talk show, it’s easy to spot a pair of the designer’s shoes from just a look at the sole. So this red color should be more than just a shoe design and instead an exclusive branding feature to Louboutin, right? A judge in New York doesn’t think so.
According to BrandChannel, Louboutin has sued fellow French designer Yves Saint Laurent for copying the red sole style, and is trying to stop the sale of his shoes. Louboutin trademarked the red sole with a patent in 2008, but the judge claimed that “granting Louboutin exclusive use of the color red could hinder manufacturers of other items.” While this is true, the article also mentions that Qualitex Co. has previously owned a particular puke-green color because it fulfills the requirements of a trademark, much in the same way a brand name or logo does. Similarly, UPS’ famous brown color is also trademarked for the same reason.
What do you think about all this? As the article states, there’s clearly precedence; other companies have successful trademarked a certain color exclusively for their products as it’s essential to their branding. On the other hand, fashion is about art, design, and beauty — limiting who can use certain colors seems completely counter intuitive to its fundamental purpose. The question really comes down to what’s more important in the fashion industry, art or business?