The Federal Administrative Court has rejected an appeal by French luxury shoe designer Christian Louboutin to register his iconic red-soled high heels as a protected brand in Switzerland.
In a court ruling from April 27 published on Thursday, the St Gallen court said customers mainly consider the famous red lacquered sole as a “decorative element” and not a brand.
In Switzerland, these soles belong to the public domain, the court ruled. It added that a previous court ruling had demonstrated that various shoe manufacturers make women’s shoes with coloured soles.
The fact that Louboutin red-soled shoes have trademark protection in the European Union, and in other countries like China, Russia or Australia, does not constitute a legal precedent, the judges declared.
The designer has the possibility of appealing further to Switzerland’s highest Federal Court.
Louboutin has been in court on several occasions to protect his famous red soles. In a case brought by Louboutin in 2013, the Brussels Court of Appeal found that the company has created a distinctive and recognisable marker of its product in the red sole, and Dutch company Van Haren was forced to cease production of its red-soled shoes as a result.
The designer also battled Yves Saint Laurent in court in New York over the issue in 2012.
The Frenchman is a big name in the high-fashion shoe design industry. He helped bring stilettos back into fashion in the 1990s and 2000s designing dozens of styles of expensive high heels of up to 120 mm (4.72 inches) and higher. A classic pair of red-soled heels can cost $500 but prices can rise to as much as $6,000 for custom-made pairs.