In an interview last year, Marie Claire magazine commented on Christian Louboutin’s famous trademark, saying: “Now you’re as much a household name as Band-Aid or Kleenex.” While this may be flattering, it is simultaneously problematic for Mr. Louboutin as a trademark holder. In addition to his red sole mark, Louboutin has trademarked his name in connection with shoes. So, with such awareness of his brand, comes the need to police his trademark in order to prevent the genericizing of his mark. Much like he did with his red sole mark, by bringing suit against YSL and Zara, among others, he has the monitor the use of his other trademark: his name.
While the danger of genericide occurring with his name is arguably not that great since others largely cannot produce red-soled shoes based on his red sole trademark, genericide is real. For instance, a non-fashion example is Band-aid, which is a trademark. However, due to overuse (and likely a lack of action of the part of Johnson & Johnson), we refer to nearly all adhesive bandages as Band-aids. That’s genericide. The danger of a trademark becoming a commonplace noun or adjective is that it essentially becomes useless for the trademark holder.
So, what can/should Louboutin and other trademark owners do? Police their trademark! A good example of this is Chanel. The French company took action via an ad in WWD in September 2010, asking people to stop using their name to refer to non-Chanel products. The ad was prompted by various writers’ reports of collections exhibited during New York’s fashion week, which used variations on the Chanel moniker to describe other designers’ collections.
The ad said, “Although our style is justly famous, a jacket is not ‘a Chanel jacket’ unless it is ours…And even if we are flattered by such tributes to our fame as ‘Chanel-issime, Chanel-ed, Chanels, and Chanel-ized,’ PLEASE DON’T. Our lawyers positively detest them. We take our trademark seriously.”