A new lawsuit Christian Louboutin filed last week accuses Vinci Leather of infringing upon the luxury label’s famous shoe designs.
The French footwear maker’s 27-page complaint filed with the U.S. Southern District Court of New York claims the three-store fashion brand which also sells online rips off Louboutin’s distinctive red sole. It also claims Vinci knocks off its shark-teeth-like outsole design called “Loubishark” and sneakers with spikes on the toe box and heels.
“Spikes have become a mainstay of the Christian Louboutin shoe brand, and have adorned the feet of celebrities such as Elton John and Idris Elba,” according to the complaint. “The overall appearance and particular combination of elements of the Spiked Sneakers make them distinctive, consisting of footwear articles wherein conically shaped spikes are applied to the toe bed covering substantially the entire toe bed area, with the spikes positioned in rows and columns forming a substantially regularly spaced spike pattern.”
Christian Louboutin is suing on five counts, led by federal trademark infringement, federal trade dress infringement, unfair competition, both federally and under New York common law, violation of state Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and federal design patent infringement.
Christian Louboutin’s legal counsel claims that Vinci Leather did not respond to requests issued in October 2022, but removed specifically noted items—including the Musumusu, Zibo, and Efes shoes believed to be the trademark offenders—off the shelves.
Vinci Leather continued to violate Christian Louboutin’s trademark, this time co-opting its most valued red-soled design with its Musumusu, Ege and Maple styles, according to the complaint. A new cease-and-desist letter again went unanswered but resulted in the Ege and Maple shoes being removed from Vinci’s website and storefronts in Virginia and Maryland, according to the plaintiff.
On Dec. 15, the French firm realized Vinci had started selling offending items on its website again.
“By virtue of Defendant’s use of an essentially identical design, potential purchasers will assume, incorrectly, that the Infringing Shoes are Plaintiff’s,” the complaint reads.
Christian Louboutin has successfully defended its red sole patent in the past. The Court Justice of the European Union decided that Louboutin’s 2010 patent did indeed cover the color of the sole in a ruling against Dutch shoe-seller Van Haren. The 2018 decision was held up on appeal by a District Court ruling in The Hague eight months later, ruling against Van Haren, which had argued that Louboutin’s patent applied to the shape of the sole, and not the color.
In 2021, Christian Louboutin went after Amazon, claiming some of its vendors infringe on the red sole trademark only to see the CJEU rule that a seller like the e-commerce titan cannot be held “directly liable” for third-party sales on its marketplace.
Vinci Leather has three retail store locations in Washington, D.C. metro area, including two Virginia shops in Pentagon City Mall and Tyson’s Corner Center, and one at Bethesda’s Westfield Montgomery Mall in Maryland. It sells men’s and women’s footwear, including boots, sandals, heels and sneakers, as well as leather belts and jackets and women’s handbags.
Vinci Leather did not immediately respond to Sourcing Journal requests for comment.