Revered French shoemaker Christian Louboutin and a passel of fans wearing his red-soled sky-high shoes turned up in a lower Manhattan courtroom Tuesday to hear arguments that only Louboutin's label should be allowed to use the shade “Chinese red” to color the bottoms of shoes.
This summer, Manhattan Federal Judge Victor Marrero had overruled Louboutin’s preliminary injunction barring Yves St. Laurent — another iconic French brand — from selling a high-heel with both a red top and bottom. In his opinion, Marrero wrote, if Louboutin got his way, it would cast "a red cloud over the whole industry cramping what other designers could do while allowing Louboutin to paint with a full palette."
Louboutin trademarked that shade of red 20 years ago and has insisted it hasn't hurt competition in the shoe industry.
In front of a three-judge panel, lawyers for Louboutin and YSL made their arguments Tuesday.
Louboutin lawyer Harley Lewin said Louboutin needs to protect the color to keep “other copyists” from stealing his business, according to the New York Post. But YSL's lawyer David Bernstein said that in order to compete "we need red. We don't want to find out that we can make green, purple shoes ... but we are enjoined from making red."
Note to those following the case in the media and the courtroom: Brace yourselves for the use of a lot of puns and other hokey language.
A columnist for Thomson Reuters noted, for example, that a YSL red pump artfully placed on the courtroom table in front of Bernstein was intended “to add kick” to YSL’s argument that Louboutin shouldn’t be able to bar the sale of the red shoe.
Even Louboutin’s lawyer -- please forgive -- waltzed into the act when he was quoted in the Wall Street Journal saying, “Louboutin turned a pedestrian item into a thing of beauty.”
Then there was Fordham Law professor Susan Scafidi, who wore a pair of $745 black patent-leather Louboutin stilettos to court and told the Post, “I think Judge Marrero colored outside the lines.”
-- Geraldine Baum in New York
Photo: Christian Louboutin, the famous French shoe designer, wants to own the exclusive right to painting the bottoms of shoes "China red." This shoe was photographed on a woman who attended his star-studded 20th anniversary party in Beverly Hills in November. Credit: Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times