NEW YORK — Attorneys for Christian Louboutin and Yves Saint Laurent faced off before Judge Victor Marrero Friday afternoon to argue whether a preliminary injunction should be granted barring the sale of an all-red YSL pump from the fashion house’s 2011 resort collection.
This story first appeared in the July 25, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Sitting pensively, Marrero, of New York’s Southern District, looked at one of the many red designer shoes that the attorneys hauled out as evidence, before proclaiming that he’d take more time to review the case before deciding.
“Nice shoes,” he said with a smile, as he exited the courtroom, injecting some levity into a tense atmosphere, after both sides passionately argued their case.
In the suit, filed in April, Louboutin alleged that YSL’s red pump from the cruise 2011 collection of monochromatic shoes violates the red-sole trademark the Louboutin obtained in 2008. Friday’s hearing was to determine if YSL could continue selling that shoe as the case proceeds.
In Marrero’s courtroom, red pumps and sandals were strewn everywhere and, at times, brandished by YSL’s attorney David Bernstein of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, who argued that his client has been using the red as a signature color since the French fashion house was founded in 1962. He also pointed out that brands other than YSL have used the color red on the soles of their shoes. Even King Louis XIV of France and Dorothy from the “Wizard of Oz” had red-soled shoes, he said, to courtroom snickers.
Bernstein not only questioned the validity of Louboutin’s red sole mark, but also whether any designer should be entitled to what he called “a monopoly” on a color.
For Louboutin, Harley Lewin of McCarter & English LLP gave a heated reply, making the case that if a preliminary injunction was not granted, it would cause “irreparable harm” to the brand, as it could encourage third parties to begin mass producing shoes with red soles.
Lewin also demanded the defense show evidence of sales of the all-red shoe in question — a piece of evidence that could be pivotal in determining the harm incurred by Louboutin over the sale of its competitor’s shoe.
“I think it’s a draw,” Lewin told WWD after the hearing. “I feel pretty optimistic. I feel considerably better about it.”