Ugg: Australian Company Loses Trademark Case

US seller owns the name, but the term is generic Down Under
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted May 11, 2021 3:14 PM CDT
Court Lets US Company Keep Its 'Ugg' Trademark
Fake Ugg boots, left, and real ones, right, are displayed at a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement news conference in 2014 in Long Beach, Calif.   (AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Sam Gangwer)

A US appeals court is not buying what an Australian company is selling, letting an American company keep its trademark on the word "Ugg." The name not only is synonymous with a type of sheepskin boots, but it's a symbol and point of pride for Australians. Deckers Outdoor Corp. (which owns the UGG Australia brand) and Australian Leather have been fighting over the name's ownership for five years, the New York Times reports, and might well keep fighting: The owner of Australian Leather said he'll take the case to the US Supreme Court. "This is not just about me; it is about Australia taking back 'ugg,'" Eddie Oygur said. "The trademark should never have been given in the first place to the US." It's a generic term in Australia for fleece-lined sheepskin boots, but an Australian trademarked the word in the US in the 1980s, then sold it to Deckers.

Internet sales complicate the issue. An Australian branding expert said most people there would consider it wrong that an American company won't let others use "ugg" when selling sheepskin boots, as is the case here. But he acknowledged that Deckers turned their Uggs into a sophisticated brand over the course of years, which isn't the path uggs have taken in Australia. "The internet has given us access to a global market," the expert said, adding: "But the legal systems aren't global. They’re within countries." It was Deckers, which owns the "ugg" trademark in 130 countries, that first sued over trademark infringement, per Australia's, after Oygur sold 13 pairs of "ugg" boots in the US over the internet. "We should be able to sell our ugg boots worldwide," Oygur said. "It's generic here, and it's an Australian product." (More trademark infringement stories.)

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