Forget the ongoing Louboutin vs. Yves Saint Laurent court debacle. In potentially landmark news, Zara was just awarded the right, by a French court, to sell red-soled shoes. The trouble, it seems, is that Christian Louboutin’s current trademark is too vague to hold up in court — for instance, he doesn’t specify just what shade of Pantone shade of red those soles need to be.
While Louboutin already has a fresh application in for a more specific trademark, a Pantone number might be beside the point now that Zara’s prevailed. Out of context, most consumers in the know see a red bottom on a pair of high heels and probably think of Louboutins, even though a range of believable knockoffs already abound. Since those tend to be no-name copies, however, they don’t hurt Louboutin’s business too much because they don’t widely affect consumer perception of the shoes. Zara might not be high-end, but it’s a well-recognized global brand — if the Spanish company starts painting its shoes’ soles red, it could actually change shoppers’ association of the sole color and its placement.
Unfortunately for Louboutin, that possible shift in perception wouldn’t be good for him or his luxury label’s exclusive. It’s no wonder he defends his red soles tooth and nail — besides registering a new trademark, we wonder where he’ll take this fight next.