Australian Shoemaker Hires Leading Lawyer to Fight Over ‘Ugg’ Boots
This confrontation between Australia and America could turn ugly.
An Australian mom and dad shoe company has recruited one of the top officials in former President Bill Clinton’s administration to fight over UGG boots, the infamous ungainly sheepskin shoes – and even the Australian government has joined the battle.
Australian shoemaker Eddie Oygur’s small suburban business, Australian Leather, hired high-profile attorney and former United States solicitor general Seth Waxman to convince the Supreme Court that US shoe giant Deckers cannot drop the word “Ugg”.
Supreme Court offer argues that “Ugg” is an Australian umbrella term that should be protected against trademarks in the same way that companies cannot register French “champagne” or Greek “feta” brands. .
Fleece-lined boots were first made popular by surfers in the 1960s, but Deckers registered the term in 130 countries, preventing Australian manufacturers from enjoying the “Ugg” stamp abroad.
The California-based company bought a pair of the boots from the Oygur website in 2016 – but then screamed scandal when the shoes arrived in the mail because it claimed their American brand had been violated.
Now, after the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit both sided with Deckers in the fight against the mark, the small Australian company wants to take it to the highest court in the country.
Australian politician turned lawyer Nick Xenephon said the case was more than just a trademark – it was about fighting for Australian culture and attacking corporate goliaths.
“Imagine if a foreign company filed a trademark of ‘hot dog’, an obviously generic term in the United States, and then sued every mom-and-pop store that sold them for trademark violation. It’s so ridiculous, ”Xenephon told The Post.
“This case is a big deal, for Eddie and his small business, for Australia and for trademark law internationally.”
The Australian government even disbursed $ 150,000 to help cover the cost of the proposed appeal.
However, Waxman is pressuring the government to exert more pressure by becoming a “friend of the court” – which would increase the chances of the case reaching the Supreme Court.
In a letter to Australian Attorney General Michaelia Cash, Waxman said the case could have “profound consequences” for how the United States takes advantage of generic terms drawn from other English-speaking countries.
“A friend of the court (amicus curiae) brief from the Australian government supporting the United States Supreme Court review is essential to ensure that these important issues receive the attention of the highest levels of the United States legal system and that the rights of Australian nationals in this case be defended. ,” he wrote.
“I am confident that if the Supreme Court takes the case, we will be able to present a strong case on the merits.”
He insisted that the Australian government would have little to lose.
“Australia would not intervene in the case, but would instead express its own views in a brief addressing the importance of the Supreme Court review,” Waxman wrote.
“Australia would not face any risk of being assessed damages, court costs or attorney’s fees from Deckers if Australian Leather did not prevail.”
Australians living in the United States are also supporting Oygur’s fight, telling the Post they want their fashion symbol back.
“Ugg boots are as iconic Aussie as Vegemite, the outback and the ‘crikey! “Steve Irwin,” said Australian turned Upper East Sider Jimmy Hodgson-van Daal.
“If you don’t understand why we care so much about us, walk a mile for us. “
Deckers, meanwhile, says it welcomes fair competition and only enforces its brand to protect U.S. buyers from inferior knockoffs.
“This case was always aimed at protecting American consumers from being tricked into purchasing counterfeit products offered for sale and sold online in the United States, where UGG is a registered trademark,” said the director of public relations for the company. mother of Ugg, Deckers Brands, Lindsey DiCola, in a statement.
The Australian government has been quietly pushing for their Ugg boots back since 2017, when the then Australian Prime Minister ordered the Australian Embassy in Washington to “reiterate Australia’s view that ‘Ugg’ is a generic term “but which” the Australian government has so far refused to become a “friend of the court”.