Designer hot on heels of brands using red soles

Designer hot on heels of brands using red soles
Christian Louboutin Store in Ngee Ann City.

SINGAPORE - High-end shoe designer Christian Louboutin, seeing red over other shoe brands with crimson soles, has warned shops here to stop selling them.

The French designer took out an advertisement in The Straits Times Classifieds section last week, cautioning against copying his trademark red-lacquered outsole.

The ad pointed out that this trademark was being used without the designer's consent in Singapore, and that he would not hesitate to take legal action against a firm or person dealing in products that were "deceptively similar".

The shoemaker - whose trademark is for a particular shade of red called Pantone No. 18.1663TP - means business.

He has a history of legal tussles with brands which came up with red outsoles, from YSL to Zara. He has won suits when it was agreed that the colour and style were too similar to the iconic brand's, and lost others because the courts ruled that he could not have a monopoly on the colour red.

In Singapore, where a new outlet will be opened at the end of the year, Christian Louboutin representatives had already fanned out to shoe shops here last year to tell them to stop selling shoes with red soles. More than 30 shops, from large chains to lone outfits in the heartland, complied.

"Some of the retailers recently claimed they were unaware that the mark was registered," said the brand's solicitor, Mirandah Law's Prithipal Singh.

The director of intellectual property law firm Ella Cheong, Mr Soh Kar Liang, said the notice is probably targeted at retail and distribution of shoes here, rather than at manufacturers as there are few in Singapore.

Neither will customers wearing red-soled shoes be taken to task.

"Some firms post this up as a general circular to remind people on a periodic basis. Others do it as a precursor to action," he noted, adding that registered trademarks may be infringed by unauthorised use, sale, import and even in advertisements.

Some players here feel that such trademarks are unfair.

Mr Charles Wong, co-founder of shoe retailer Charles and Keith, said: "They may have the trademark, but I don't think it's right to allow it."

He added that if someone registers blue soles as a trademark and another green soles, "then no one has any colours left to make soles with".

Others are ignorant of potential legal action.

Ms Yo Yo Wang, 32, who owns Elegant Fashion at Far East Plaza, which sells shoes from China and South Korea, said she has not even heard of the Christian Louboutin brand.

"We buy whatever our supplier gives us. I thought that as long as they are not fakes, it's OK," she said.

This article was first published on February 11, 2015.
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