Trademark

I can hardly think of Christain Louboutin’s (“Louboutin”) “red soled shoe” case without hearing Elvis Costello’s Red Shoes in my head.

Angel in Red Shoes

…Oh I used to be disgusted 
and now I try to be amused. 
But since their wings have got rusted, 
you know, the angels wanna wear my red shoes
Red shoes, the angels wanna wear my red shoes

For awhile, at least in the Second Circuit, we were wondering who could sell red shoes and/or whether angels might have to go barefoot for awhile…  But now we seem to have some clarity on the issue.

To review, Louboutin has been fighting since 2011 to stop Yves St. Laurent (“YSL”) from copying his trademark red-soled shoes.  In what had been a somewhat surprising opinion, the Southern District of New York had denied Louboutin’s request for an injunction against YSL’s monochrome red shoes (that included a red sole) last August, on the grounds that color was per se functional as applied to fashion items.  We’ve been waiting for months for Louboutin’s appeal to reach a decision, which finally came down on September 5, 2012  from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

My earlier ruminations on … Keep reading

Should Colors Be Protected as Trademarks? If Not, Should Letters? How Shoe Soles and Mobile Apps Might Be Related

One of the pleasures of practicing law, perhaps especially in the technology space –is in observing how technology trends and legal theories n Qualitex v. Jacobson, determined that single colors could be protected as trademarks—as long as the color, as applied to the relevant products, was not merely functional. Previously, some feared that granting trademark protection to single color (even if the color was non-functional) would be anti-competitive because colors were in short supply. Hence, no one should own one color exclusively. The Qualitex ruling seemed to provide closure on the issue by focusing the analysis on the functionality of the color shade rather than the potential for that color to be removed from the designer’s pallet.

But recently, as the trademark community knows, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals took up the appeal in Louboutin v. Yves Saint Laurent, a case that revisits the protectability of color, this time as used to identify a brand of shoes. The District Court opined that the use of red on a shoe sole (or on any fashion item) was “functional” by its very nature and that granting a monopoly to color on a fashion item was outside the bounds … Keep reading

Settlement

As of July 2, 2012, the World Trademark Review and its blogger, Helen Sloan, are reporting that Apple has agreed to pay $60 million to Proview Technologies for the IPAD mark in China.  As I previously summarized in an earlier post, Apple thought it had already acquired all the rights to the IPAD mark, but it learned after a transaction with Proview’s sister company that it had not (allegedly) obtained a complete assignment in China from the record owner of the rights there.  Apple’s proffered settlement is quite a bit larger than the $16 million it was rumored to be offering, but given the popularity of the Apple device and the potential market in China, the sum is a worthy investment.

Lessons from Apple’s experience include:

1)  Diligence needs to be thorough.  Mixed ownership of assets in related, sister and subsidiary names is not uncommon.  Making sure the papers are signed by the right entity is critical to finalizing a deal and getting genuine closure on the acquisition of any intellectual property right.

2) Negotiating through an acquisition subsidiary can be perilous.  Apple used a separate corporation to purchase rights to the IPAD mark in various countries … Keep reading