Australian Ugg bootmaker in legal battle with US footwear label Deckers 

A Sydney manufacturer of ugg boots is facing an uphill battle in a US court, where a global American footwear company is seeking to prevent it from describing its sheepskin boots as “ugg” boots.

The court action by Deckers is calling for sweeping orders, including for all of Australian Leather’s ugg boot stock to be delivered to Deckers in the US for destruction, all funds in the company’s bank accounts to be transferred to Deckers, as well as multi-million dollar punitive damages.

The court action against the Sydney small business is the latest attempt by US footwear label Deckers Corporation to trademark the word “Ugg” around the world.

Australian Leather Pty Ltd has been manufacturing ugg boots since the early 1990s, using Australian sheepskins to make about 50,000 pairs of the boots every year.

A pair of classic Australian Leather ugg boots retails for $89.

The court action against the Sydney small business is the latest attempt by US footwear label Deckers Corporation to trademark the word “Ugg” around the world.

“We are nothing compared to that company,” said the founder and owner of Australian Leather, Eddie Oygur.

Made in Australia: Zeehan Khan glues together a boot in the Western Sydney factory of Australian Leather.

Made in Australia: Zeehan Khan glues together a boot in the Western Sydney factory of Australian Leather.Photo: James Alcock

“In the past they have closed down dozens of small manufacturers in Australia, but if the legal protection was provided it would create many hundreds of jobs and tens of millions in export earnings amongst Australian ugg boot makers.”

In Australia the flat-soled, sheepskin boots are considered a quintessentially Australian clothing item, and as a result “ugg boots” is considered a generic term for the style and is used by multiple manufacturers.

However in 1999 “UGG Australia” was successfully registered as a trademark of Deckers Corporation, which has an annual turnover of $2.4 billion. That trademark now stands in the US, China and the EU, meaning Australian manufacturers like Mr Oygur are unable to sell in overseas markets.

“Since 2009 we have missed out on one [overseas] order for 200,000 pairs a year, and another order to Germany for 75,000 pairs. From just those alone I have lost a minimum of $20 million in business,” he said.

Ugg boot manufacturer Eddie Oygur and Senator Nick Xenophon don a pair of ugg boots to highlight the upcoming battle …

Ugg boot manufacturer Eddie Oygur and Senator Nick Xenophon don a pair of ugg boots to highlight the upcoming battle against a US global footwear brand to use the word ‘ugg’.Photo: James Alcock

“Deckers advertise [their boots] as UGG Australia, but there’s nothing Australian about it.”

Mr Oygur said Deckers boots display the “UGG Australia” logo on the heel, but a close look inside the boots reveals that they are made in China.

A pair of Deckers UGG Australia boots seen by Fairfax Media showed a ‘Made in China’ label stitched on the inside of the inner sheepskin layer.

Deckers has been contacted for comment.

The ‘Made in China’ label on the interior of a pair of Deckers Corporation UGG Australia boots.

The ‘Made in China’ label on the interior of a pair of Deckers Corporation UGG Australia boots.

The court action by Deckers is calling for sweeping orders, including for all of Australian Leather’s ugg boot stock to be delivered to Deckers in the US for destruction, all funds in the company’s bank accounts to be transferred to Deckers, as well as multi-million dollar punitive damages.

South Australian Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said the action “looks like a complete abuse of trademark laws”.

“This is legal bullying…This is a $2.4 billion corporation taking on a small business. Thats why I’ve put up legislation that we should be protecting the word ‘ugg’,” he said.

“The government needs to back Australian business. Politicians can talk about supporting Australian jobs, but they need to put their money where their mouth is.”

Senator Xenophon said the situation was no different to “the French protecting champagne, the Portuguese protecting port, the Spanish protecting sherry and even the Greek protecting fetta”.

Competition and consumer lawyer Michael Terceiro said, if the Deckers court action was successful, “all Australian products will pushed off the shelves”, having huge implications for Australian and overseas consumers.

“We don’t believe Australian consumers actually know these are made in China. We think the ACCC should really look at the way they are marketing their products in Australia, because we think they are actually breaching Australian Consumer Law,” he said.

With 60 days until the first US District Court hearing, Mr Oygur said he was “not scared of a fight”.

“I am a small Australian company, Australian-owned and Australian-made. But I’d like to have the government behind me to say enough is enough.”

On their website, Deckers Corporation said “Australian dealers have attempted to pass off their boots as Deckers’ UGG Australia brand boots…and to deceive or confuse consumers outside of Australia.

“…In appropriate circumstances, Deckers takes action against dealers in Australia and elsewhere that are engaged in such deceptive trade practices. Deckers welcomes fair competition and has entered into agreements with some Australian sheepskin boot dealers that facilitate lawful competition.”

http://m.smh.com.au/business/consumer-affairs/australian-ugg-boot-manufacturers-fighting-to-use-the-word-ugg-20160523-gp1pwt.html

One Comment Add yours

  1. Kathleen Fairweather says:

    Common guys…can’t we outwit the big guys by coming up with a new generic term that is quintessentially Australian! This fight has been going on for years. It’s the image-that’s it’s an Aussie product, that helps sell it. The public would get on board with a bit of celebrity help! How about Snugg Boots or Rugga Boots or Okka Boots. Let’s stand up in the face of adversity and be clever about it… Instead spend the legal fees on promoting a change…everyone likes something new!!

    Like

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