High end shoemaker Christian Louboutin lost a major battle Wednesday when a federal judge denied his request to bar rival Yves Saint Laurent from selling stilettos with similarly coloured soles.Louboutin, who is known making red-bottomed pumps that cost upwards of $1,000 a pair and are popular among celebrities, had sued YSL for trademark infringement earlier this year.
Louboutin’s trademark for “red lacquered soles” was “overly broad,” the judge wrote in Wednesday’s ruling, adding that allowing Louboutin to claim that scarlet sole as its own would have been like forbidding Monet from using a specific shade of blue in his Water Lilies series because Picasso had been there first with paintings from his Blue Period,” according to the New York Times.
While the case is far from over — Louboutin was ordered to show up to court next week to explain to the judge why he shouldn’t cancel the trademark altogether — it’s an important victory for YSL and companies that thrive by making their own versions of designer goods.
What does the decision mean for Louboutin, and how did those glossy red soles get so popular anyway?
High heels have a storied history in France; they were popularised by the petite fashionista Catherine Medici in the 1530s, and Louis XIV later embraced the trend, embellishing them and barring non-nobility from wearing red heels.
Christian Louboutin, it appears, was simply following a longstanding French passion. As a 12-year-old he snuck into Paris' nightclubs to admire the dancers' shoes.
He launched his own high-end footwear line in 1991 and came up with his signature red-sole look a year later when, on a whim, he applied nail polish to a plain-looking sole.
The shoes, which retail for upwards of $1,000 a pair at high-end department stores, are even the subject of a J-Lo single.
As with any popular luxury brand, lots of copycats followed. Louboutin has actively pursued trademark infringers, seizing thousands of knockoffs and shutting more than 70 websites selling fakes.
The case is far from over, but the ruling paves the way for YSL to continue selling its red-bottomed stilettos, and for other brands to appropriate the signature look as well.
NOW WATCH: Executive Life videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.