A French court has ruled in favor of Zara giving the fast fashion company the right to use red-soles on their shoes.
It all started when Zara started selling a peep toe with red soles shoes that according to Loubouting were a copy of its Yo-Yo style and on June, 2011, Louboutin filed a lawsuit against Zara for counterfeiting and unfair competition.
At first, the court ruled in favor of Louboutin. Zara then appealed arguing that Louboutin’s trademark specifications were too vague and that there was no risk of consumer confusion given that Louboutin's shoes sell for around 450 Euros, and their own version for 49 Euros.
The French court (Cour de Cassation) even ordered Louboutin to pay a rather symbolic compensatin of 2,500 Euros.
Professor Susan Scafidi, from the Fashion Law Institute, commented this case to the fashion website Fashionista.com and reminded us that this decision is only valid in France:
“Since the original decision favoring Zara, Louboutin has re-filed his French trademark to name a specific shade (Pantone 18-1663TP, “Chinese Red”) rather than the color in general — so his claim to red isn’t dead, just limited,” she told us. She also notes that this particular court decision only holds up in France. “There’s no such thing as a global trademark, so don’t expect a fast-fashion outlet near you to suddenly paint its shoe department red. This decision doesn’t have any authority outside France in general or with respect to the U.S. battle between Louboutin and YSL in particular, though the world is clearly watching.”
While this may seem like a lost battle for Louboutin in France, it actually may not be. Louboutin and Zara target different consumer markets and have completly different price points. Whereas Louboutin and YSL are both in the same high-end, luxury category. This positional fact may play an important role for judges when deciding a case, in particular when assessing the risk of confusion among consumers.