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Christian Louboutin Appealing Trademark Decision

Designer's lawyers are looking for the court to reverse an earlier decision in favor of rival Yves Saint Laurent.

The highly contested battle over Christian Louboutin’s red-sole trademark is revving up anew.

This story first appeared in the October 19, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Lawyers for Christian Louboutin filed their first brief to the Court of Appeals Monday, arguing for a reversal of an earlier ruling denying the fashion house a preliminary injunction and questioning the validity of its red-sole trademark.

The filing signals the beginning of an expedited appeal between Louboutin and defendant Yves Saint Laurent, which sold a red monochrome pump it created for its 2011 resort collection.

In April, Louboutin sued YSL in New York federal court, claiming that YSL’s red pump violated its red-sole trademark that it obtained in 2008. Louboutin asked the court to stop the sale of YSL’s shoe while the case was under review. But in August, presiding Judge Victor Marrero denied that request and instead questioned the validity of Louboutin trademark altogether.

Examining the function of color in fashion and its role in creativity, the judge told the plaintiff that no one designer should have a “monopoly” on any color.

Louboutin’s counsel argued that the color is vital to the brand’s DNA, and that infringing on its trademark would cause irreparable harm. It also claimed that YSL’s shoe caused “consumer confusion,” which is a critical component to determining if a trademark has been violated.

Those arguments didn’t convince the judge, and Louboutin quickly entered an appeal.

Filed Monday, the plaintiff’s appeal brief restates its arguments and focuses on what it deems as Judge Marrero’s “errors of law in determining that Louboutin’s red outsole mark was likely invalid.”

Louboutin’s “trademark status has been conferred upon it by the consuming public…only public recognition can breathe life into another mark, whether it be a single color, several colors or another design element,” according to the brief.

The court now awaits filings from YSL’s lawyers, who could not be reached for comment by press time.

“All the briefs from both sides are on a schedule that the Court of Appeals agreed with, to wit: all done and in before the end of the year,” Louboutin attorney Harley Lewin of McCarter & English LLP told WWD.

“Considering what is at stake, it is probably fair to assume a ruling sometime in early spring, if not earlier,” he said.