Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Ugg Boot Trademark Dispute

By Casey S Gordon

Ugg Boots are now known all over the world for their ability to keep the feet of the wearer warm even in very cold climates. For this specific reason, Ugg Boots can be worn even without socks and this has made the shoes immensely popular all over the world. It isn't certain whether they were first made in Australia or New Zealand and much water has flown under the bridge since then. The Ugg Boot trademark controversy has also seen a revival in the past few years as well.

History of Ugg Boots

Historically they were worn by pilots, surfers and shearer's way back in the 1920's in Australia. Then in the 1970's, they became favorites of surfers and swimmers who wore them after competitions to keep their feet warm. Since the they are made of sheepskin, they help to keep the temperature warm and keep the feet insulated.

Though the boots were earlier made in such a way that both men and women could wear them, lately specific trends have been incorporated for women's Ugg Boots as well. Soon these boots acquired cult status and became quite a fashion trend in the 2000's. Many celebrities have also started endorsing these shoes and this is the reason that they have become quite popular.

Both New Zealand and Australia claim that they were the first ones to manufacture the boots. However it is clear that the production of the boots started in 1933 by the 'Blue Mountains Ugg Boots" company. However these boots (then known as flying Ugg Boots or Fug Boots) were being used by aviators way back in the 1920's when the cockpits of the airplanes weren't pressurized and they required the boots to ensure that their feet stayed warm. Even rural shearers and farm hands were using the shoes in the 1920's.

Actually the term Ugg Boot is really a broad and non-specific term that has been used for sheepskin shoes whether they have been manufactured in Australia or New Zealand. It can be said that it is really a generic term.

Sales beyond Australia

In the 1970's the trademark dispute was extremely widespread when an Australian surfer named Shane Steadman started selling these boots and shoes and then registered them as a trademark. In 1979, another Australian surfer known as Brian Smith actually bought these shoes to United States for selling and registered his company as Ugg Holdings Inc. and bought the trademark from Steadman.

Now the trademark has been registered in 25 countries. However Smith sold his holdings to Decker Outdoor Corporation. Since the trademark was registered in 25 countries, Decker sent cease and desist letters to all the Australian manufacturers from using the name Ugg Boots. But the issue wasn't pressed further.

The Trademark Row Resolved

Suddenly in 2000, as a result of celebrity endorsements, the demand for the shoes soared incredibly and Australian manufacturers started selling under the name Ugg Boots. As per a court ruling now, 'Ugg Boots' is a generic term that can be used by manufacturers that use sheepskin to make boots. However in other countries, manufacturers can't use this term with reference to the boots made of sheepskin.

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