Stilettos at dawn...fashion giant sees red over a shoe

Christian Louboutin's vertiginous designs have been spotted on the feet of Oprah Winfrey, Carla Bruni, Renée Zellweger and Beyoncé Knowles. How do we know? Because whenever a starlet takes a step, she reveals a trademark flash of scarlet lacquer on the sole of her shoes.

Louboutin, 47, is now suing French label Yves Saint Laurent, claiming certain models of their Tribute, Palais and Woodstock styles, which are stocked at a number of stores also selling Louboutins, feature a red lacquered sole and are an infringement of his trademark. Louboutin is seeking an injunction against continued sales, as well as more than $1m (£611,000) in damages.

"Defendants' use of a red sole on their infringing footwear threatens to mislead the public, and has impaired plaintiffs' ability to control their reputation," the company complained. Court action follows a letter from executives at Yves Saint Laurent in January, which stated their intention to continue selling the footwear.

Louboutin, whose name has been referenced in songs by everyone from Jennifer Lopez to the Beastie Boys, is keen to protect his signature from those who would like a piece of his high-profile red carpet monopoly.

The label sells more than 500,000 pairs of shoes a year in over 46 countries, with prices ranging from £295 for an espadrille, to several thousand pounds for a bespoke design.

"The cost of enforcing a trademark is high, but if a competitor is infringing on a key area of custom, it's worth it," says Ian Karet, a partner at law firm Linklaters.

Louboutin invented the red sole in 1993 while scrutinising a prototype. "There was this big, black sole," he said, "and then, thank God, there was this girl painting her nails." He used her red nail varnish to cover the rubber sole, thereby inventing one of fashion's most recognisable status symbols. But it took him until 2007 to patent the red sole. "The shiny red colour has no function other than to identify to the public that they are mine," he told a court in his application.

As well as several high street retailers imitating the red soles, last year a 15-year-old entrepreneur in County Kildare set up "Rosso Solini", selling red plastic templates online to stick to soles. "What are we supposed to do?" a Louboutin employee protested. "Call her parents?"

Despite Louboutin creating a website dedicated to eradicating the forgery of his work, policing the use of a specific colour is difficult. "It is possible to copyright a colour," adds Mr Karet, "but it is difficult."

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    ICT Teacher, full time supply role, Isle of Sheppey

    Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: The Job: Our client school is lo...

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

    Maths Teacher

    £90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week