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What inevitably comes with high heels and high price tags? Lawsuits. Today we take a look at the top ten most notable footwear-related legal battles of the recent past, from the famed Louboutin v. Yves Saint Laurent case to the battle over one woman's $1 million personal shoe collection. Let the shoe wars begin.—Julie Zerbo
1. Christian Louboutin v. Yves Saint Laurent
The battle of the red soles was one of the most tediously drawn out legal battles of this fashion generation. Briefly, Louboutin sued YSL in 2011 for using red soles on the bottom of red pumps. Louboutin asked for $1 million in damages based on trademark infringement claims. Nearly two years after Louboutin filed suit, a New York federal court finally held that his red sole trademark is valid on all shoes, except for all-over red shoes (like the YSL styles at issue). The good news for Louboutin: this ruling applies not only to YSL, but to all footwear designers.
McQueen (left) & Madden (right), via The Cut
2. Alexander McQueen v. Steven Madden, Ltd.
In 2009, British design house Alexander McQueen brought a trade dress lawsuit against U.S. footwear giant Steve Madden, alleging that Madden's Seryna bootie was a "studied imitation" of McQueen's Faithful bootie. The lawsuit arose after McQueen's lawyers sent Madden a cease and desist letter requesting that the company stop making and selling the shoe, and Madden refused to oblige. The two companies ended up settling the lawsuit out of court. Regarding the suit, Madden recently had this to say: "I'm sure they were alike. Yeah, of course they were. We see millions of shoes. We are influenced by everything that goes on."
Balenciaga (left) & Madden (right), via The Cut
3. Balenicaga v. Steven Madden, Ltd.
Apparently the designers at Steve Madden didn't learn their lesson after the McQueen lawsuit because shortly thereafter, Balenciaga slapped Madden with a very similar lawsuit. The shoes in question: the Lego shoe from Balenciaga's Fall 2007 collection, which rose to fame after Beyoncé wore them to the American Music Awards in 2007. Balenciaga's lawyers claimed that Madden "intentionally copied" the $4,175 shoe and sold it for about $100. The parties settled almost two years later, with Madden paying Balenciaga an "undisclosed amount." Madden's thoughts on the lawsuit: "They did a multicolored shoe and we did it. It was stupid."
Classic Sigerson Morrison, circa 2009
4. Kari Sigerson and Miranda Morrison v. Marc Fisher Footwear
Designers Miranda Morrison and Kari Sigerson founded their namesake footwear brand, Sigerson Morrison, in the early nineties and built quite a fan base. Carrie Bradshaw wore their designs, as did many Hollywood stars. In 2006, Marc Fisher Footwear acquired the Sigerson Morrison company and its intellectual property rights. The founders were each granted a percent stake in the company and were hired as "co-heads of design." Things got ugly about five years later, when they were abruptly fired and slapped with a $2 million suit by Fisher, alleging that the designers failed to deliver a collection of shoes on time. Sigerson and Morrison subsequently filed a countersuit against Fisher seeking upwards of $6 million and alleging unpaid wages, sexual harassment, and breach of contract.
Guess (top) & Gucci (bottom), via The Telegraph
5. Gucci v. Guess, Inc., Marc Fisher Footwear, etc.
Speaking of Marc Fisher, the footwear exec was at the center of much of the heated Gucci v. Guess litigation that was resolved in Gucci's favor last year. The case involved what Gucci's counsel referred to as a "massive, complicated scheme to knock off Gucci's best-known and iconic designs." As Guess' footwear licensee, Fisher was accused of copying Gucci's signature "G" logo pattern on a line of sneakers. One of the more eventful cases we've seen, the proceedings involved men crying on the witness stand, hours of in-court questioning, and lastly, the introduction of damning evidence, such as emails between Guess and Marc Fisher employees indicating that Marc Fisher sent Gucci fabric samples to Guess' fabric supplier. After a three-year battle, the court awarded Gucci nearly $5 million dollars and a permanent injunction against Guess' use of several of the trademarks. Fisher was responsible for paying almost $500,000 of the damages.
Beth Shak and her insane shoe collection, via Fashion Bomb Daily
6. Daniel Shak v. Beth Shak
In a bit of an unconventional lawsuit, the ex-husband of poker star Beth Shak sued his former spouse for access to her expansive shoe collection. Hedge fund boss Daniel Shak claimed in his June 2012 suit that his ex-wife never told him about her 1,200 pairs of designer shoes when they divorced three years prior, and thus, claimed he was entitled to 35% of them. According to court documents, Beth Shak's collection is estimated to be worth about $1 million, and includes 700 pairs of Louboutins. Also in Shak's collection: Yves St. Laurent, Jimmy Choo, and a pair of cowboy boots once owned by Elizabeth Taylor. The hedge-fund manager abruptly withdrew the lawsuit against his ex-wife about a month later, and Beth presumably lived happily ever after, since she got to keep all of the shoes.
Louboutin (left) and Zara (right), via The Fashion Law
7. Christian Louboutin v. Zara
While the Louboutin v. YSL case was raging on in New York last year, so was a similar suit against Spanish fast-fashion giant Zara. However, things didn't end well for Louboutin in this one. The French Court of Appeals ruled on Zara's behalf, holding that Louboutin's trademark was too vague since the footwear designer's trademark registration failed to indicate a specific shade of red. Further, the court found that there was no proven risk of consumer confusion between the two brands and their shoes. However, even though Zara technically came out on top in this case, there haven't been too many pairs of red soled shoes among its wares since.
Gap (left) & Charles Philip (right), via the Examiner
8. Charles Philip Shanghai v. Gap
Charles Philip Shanghai hit the Gap with a lawsuit last year after the retailer began selling lookalike slippers with a not-so-coincidental name: the Phillip slipper. The Charles Philip brand, which stocks at Saks, Shopbop, and Intermix, etc., accused the Gap of quite a few things, including trademark and patent infringement and unfair competition. Turns out, Charles Philip has the right to use the striped design on the inside of its shoes under both trademark and patent law. A spokesman for the Charles Philip brand said they are not worried about competition per se. Their real worry was that consumers may be mislead into thinking that this was a collaboration between the two companies. The suit was still pending as of late last year, at which point the Gap had changed the name of the flats and pulled them from its website.
Don't mess with Zooey.
9. Zooey Deschanel v. Steve Madden, Ltd.
New Girl star Zooey Deschanel filed a lawsuit in December 2010 against, who else, Steve Madden. The actress claimed that her agent negotiated a $2 million oral contract with Madden, but that she was never paid. The deal at issue: footwear brand Candie's, which is owned by Steve Madden Ltd., used the actress' name and likeness for a line of shoes. After the shoes were made and sold, Deschanel sued for breach of contract and for infringement of her publicity rights, as the shoes bore her name. Right before the case was scheduled for trial, Deschanel's lawyers had the case dismissed. Rumors of a settlement between Deschanel and Madden have been swirling ever since, but neither party has confirmed or denied.
10. Federal Trade Commission v. Skechers U.S.A.
And finally, in a less glamorous lawsuit, Sketchers, the makers of Shape-Ups, Tone-Ups, and the Skechers Resistance Runner shoes, was found to have lied to consumers about the actual health benefits of its Shape-ups sneakers. The 2010 lawsuit, which was filed by 44 states, the District of Columbia, and the Federal Trade Commission, alleged that Skechers falsely claimed that their shoes provided weight loss and muscle-strengthening benefits, by way of national advertising, some of which involved reality starlet Kim Kardashian. (Because is any list really complete without a mention of a Kardashian?) Sketchers settled the suit for upwards of $40 million and has given partial refunds to consumers who purchased Shape-Ups, Tone-Ups, or the Skechers Resistance Runner shoes. Turns out, weight loss cannot be achieved by simply putting on a pair of sneakers.
· All shoe week coverage [Racked]