In what Australian newspapers are hailing as a victory for the little guy and a statement that a giant U.S. company cannot usurp the ugg name, the Australian trademark office ruled that the Ugh-Boot trademark should be removed from the register of trademarks. Naturally, Deckers sees this differently and quickly issued a press release clarifying, accurately, that the reason the Ugh-Boot trademark was removed was because Deckers had not use the trademark in over three years.
The company still contends it can and will market its goods worldwide under the Ugg and Ugg Australia trademarks it owns and has successfully registered in over 40 countries around the globe. Deckers issued a warning that it will aggressively defend its trademarks and that this decision in no way affects the validity of the Ugg and Ugg Australia trademarks. The company also stated it is considering appealing the Australian trademark office decision.
Other lawyers quoted in news stories in Australia are not so sure, indicating that this decision might just be sufficient grounds to provide leverage to overturn the current Ugg registrations if more legal tussles ensue, at least in Australia.
The dispute was launched when Deckers decided to get aggressive about enforcing the Ugg trademarks the company had registered around the world. For more background, see our March 10, 2004, story, "A Down Under trademark dispute could turn Uggly" by clicking here.
SNEWSÂ® View: We suspect that this will get even uglier for Deckers until the company realizes that perhaps it underestimated the cultural pride of the Australians. This wouldn't be the first time that Deckers underestimated an adversary. A Montana woman, Molly Strong-Butts, kicked the company's butt a number of years ago to the tune of several million dollars for stealing her footwear idea. The fact is "ugg boots" has been a generic description for sheepskin footwear since the 1960s in Australia, and is short for ugly. Make no mistake, though. As much as this is about pride and culture in Australia, this is about serious coin for Deckers as Ugg footwear sales are astronomical. No way will Deckers back off quietly we suspect, and there is little chance the Australians will stop crying foul over what the country perceives as a corporate hijacking of a word from the cultural lexicon.