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Louboutin Sues Yves Saint Laurent Over Red-Sole Shoes

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April 7 (Bloomberg) -- Christian Louboutin SA, the designer of expensive red-sole women’s shoes popularized by characters on “Sex and the City,” sued Yves Saint Laurent America Inc., alleging it violated Louboutin’s trademark for the footwear.

Louboutin, based in Paris, said Yves Saint Laurent is selling shoes with red soles that are “virtually identical” to its own, according to a suit filed today in federal court in Manhattan. It seeks a court injunction against the sale of the shoes and damages of at least $1 million.

Saint Laurent has been selling red-sole shoes under brand names such as Tribute, Palais and Woodstock at high-end fashion stores that also sell Louboutin footwear, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman, according to the complaint.

“Defendants’ use of a red sole on their infringing footwear threatens to mislead the public, and has impaired plaintiffs’ ability to control their reputation,” Louboutin said in the complaint.

Bridget Helene, a spokeswoman for New York-based Yves Saint Laurent America, said in an e-mail that the company had no comment.

Red Nail Polish

The designer Louboutin got the idea for the red-sole shoes when he painted red nail polish on the black soles of a pair of women’s shoes, the complaint states. He introduced the red soles in 1992 and since then they have been on all of the company’s luxury shoes, according to the lawsuit.

On Barneys’ website, Louboutin red-sole shoes are priced from $445 to more than $4,000 a pair.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded Louboutin a trademark for the red sole in 2008, according to the complaint.

Louboutin was informed by Yves Saint Laurent executives by letter in January that they planned to “continue to sell the infringing footwear,” the lawsuit states.

Yves Saint Laurent is a unit of Paris-based PPR, which owns Gucci and other luxury brands.

Saint Laurent, the Algeria-born French fashion designer, died in 2008.

The case is Christian Louboutin SA v. Yves Saint Laurent America Inc., 11-2381, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Don Jeffrey in New York at djeffrey1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net