Louboutin Red-Sole & Surrounding Contrast: An Implied Trademark Limitation

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The Louboutin lacquered red sole trademark is the subject of great debate in the trademark world, fashion industry, popular news media, and among law school academics and friends of the court.

I’m just not seeing it. I really don’t see a viable trademark claim here for Louboutin. Not for the reasons found by the district court — I believe Louboutin’s mark is distinctive and valid. Instead, I fail to see a valid claim, in part, because the presence of a red-sole on a monochrome red shoe is simply not a trademark use because it blends into the background of an all-red pair of shoes.

Equally important to explaining why there is no valid trademark claim, is what I believe to be an inherent or implied limitation in Louboutin’s red-sole single-color trademark registration: The critical need for visual contrast between the red-sole and the surrounding portions of the shoe.

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