As a self confessed shoe obsessive one of my idols is the famous Christian Louboutin. With London Fashion week coming to an end today, I began thinking about the iconic designer and (naturally) his Intellectual Property.
The rise to fame
Louboutin’s passion for shoes began in his early teens but it was a visit to a French museum in 1976 that really inspired him. At the museum he saw a sign forbidding women from wearing high heeled shoes in case they damaged the wood flooring. He wanted to defy that and create a shoe that ‘broke the rules and empowered women’.
In 1981 he became an apprentice for Roger Vivier who claims to have invented the stiletto. As an employee for Roger Vivier, Louboutin may not have given much thought to his IP rights, as an employer generally owns any IP created by their employees.
By 1991 he had set up his own company and his reputation grew with many celebrity endorsements including Madonna, Joan Collins and Gwyneth Paltrow. By 2011 he became the most searched for shoe brand on-line and understanding the importance of protecting his brand has been essential to the success.
The colour red
The most recognised element of a Louboutin shoe is, of course, the iconic red sole but can this be protected as a trade mark? You may be surprised to learn that it is possible to protect a colour. In the case of Louboutin red soles this colour is pantone 18.1663 TP. There are other trade marks which are specifically for colour, think yellow for road side recovery, or red for public transport? Louboutin has tested the validity of his trade mark of the red sole several times. He has taken action against Zara and Yves St Laurent when he perceived them to be infringing his trade mark. He also has a number of trade marks on his name, take a look at our trade mark register to search for protected marks.
Safeguard your designs
Protecting IP should be important to all designers including those showcasing their signature pieces at London Fashion Week. Don’t forget that it’s not just trade marks that offer protection for your creations, there are other forms of IP that can also help.
You can protect the look of your product in the UK for as little as £60 with a registered design. This covers all aspects of your design including the appearance, physical shape, configuration and decoration. The registration will give you exclusive rights for up to 25 years and if someone was to ever copy or steal your design, it would make taking legal action more straightforward. You will shortly be able to apply for a design online, making it even easier to protect your product.
Even if you choose not to register your designs you may still have automatic unregistered rights. Many designers rely on their unregistered Community design right. Lasting 3 years, an unregistered Community design offers automatic protection for the unique appearance of your product. This starts from the date the design was first made available to the public within the EU.
Here at the IPO we’ve recently launched our @BeautifulIP campaign. This is targeting people in the creative industries. Using simple terms and visuals we want to increase their knowledge of IP and make sure they are clued up to be able to make the right decisions.
It’s safe to say shoes are my favourite fashion item, however I can only dream of owning a famous pair of the red soles. Unless anyone wants to buy me a pair? I am a size 5, any takers?