Louboutin Loses Battle to Protect Red Soles in Switzerland

THE FASHION LAW EXCLUSIVE - A Swiss court has thrown out a bid by French luxury shoemaker Christian Louboutin to register its red-soled shoes as a protected trademark, ruling instead that the "somewhat garish color" is merely a decorative feature and thus, cannot be protected in accordance with national trademark law. The shoemaker initially sought trademark protections for his red soles in 2010 in Switzerland. Since then, Louboutin has repeatedly been rebuffed, the latest time by the Federal Administrative Court in a ruling published on Thursday.

"Relevant audiences – namely, mostly female buyers with a slightly elevated fashion sense – perceive colorful or in this case red soles on high-heeled women's shoes primarily as a decorative element, not a brand," the three-judge panel for the court wrote.

Louboutin argued in its court filings that jurisdictions, including the European Union, as well as those in China, Australia, Russia, Ukraine, Monaco, Singapore and Norway, have judged the shoes to merit similar trademark protections. The Paris-based footwear brand, which has garnered fans in Hollywood and in fashion, alike, has been in and out of court in recent years to protect its red-soled high heels, which average at $1,400.00.

In the United States in 2012, a New York federal Court of Appeals largely ruled against Yves Saint Laurent in a case filed by Christian Louboutin, holding that Louboutin has trademark rights in red soled shoes, as long as the upper of the shoe contrasted in color to the red sole. The court ultimately held that the bright red soles of Louboutin's high heels were so distinctive they deserved trademark protection. 

Louboutin can still appeal the latest Swiss ruling to the country's highest court.