COMMENT: Boot battle turns Ugg-ly
Deckers and Emu are at loggerheads over the word 'Ugg'
As winter's bony hand tightens its icy grip in the UK, Ugg boots are at peak popularity on the high street.
However, behind the scenes, brand owner Deckers Outdoor Corporation is at loggerheads with rival footwear firm Emu Australia over certain trademarks.
In what just-style is billing the 'Ugg boot battle', Deckers has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop Emu from using its trademarks.
Eventually, the District Court in the Central District of California will decide whether Emu has infringed on Deckers' trademarks. Until then, a war of words between the two companies is likely to continue.
So far, Emu has hit back at the lawsuit by saying it was "amused" by Deckers' announcement on the 7 December. It also says Ugg is a generic word in Australia.
Deckers, meanwhile, says that Emu is setting out "to confuse both the media and consumers about the basis of the lawsuit".
Firing the shots between California and Geelong are Deckers' CEO Angel Martinez and Emu managing director Paul Neate.
When first news of the lawsuit broke on 7 December, Martinez said: "The success of Ugg Australia has created an entire industry of companies that market their wares by deliberately confusing consumers.
"Emu's trademark infringement is intentionally misleading consumers into believing they are buying a genuine Ugg Australia product when in fact, they are not."
Emu hit back a few days later though, saying: "Emu Australia found great irony that Deckers, an American company which earns its profit from its Ugg Australia brand, is crying foul about issue of misleading consumers and creating significant brand confusion."
More recently, Deckers outlined further details about its suit. Martinez said this week: "In point of fact, Emu’s infringement is occurring in the United States and in many other countries where only Deckers Outdoor Corporation enjoys trademark protection, and where consumers know Ugg as the brand name for Deckers products.
"Ugg is an exclusive Deckers trademark in the United States where the suit was filed, and in more than 150 countries around the world. Neither Deckers Outdoor Corporation nor Emu can claim trademark protection for “ugg” in Australia."
But Neate refuses to lie down, saying: "Customers accessing the Emu website are looking to buy Emu products, not Deckers products. Worldwide, consumers are seeking out the quality Australian Emu products now available from premium retailers in 67 countries."
So the fireworks continue, and remember, they're not even in the courtroom yet. And aside from the aforementioned confusion, the build-up has gripped media.
Ultimately, whatever the court decides in California, this boot battle will tell us non-Ozzies exactly what the word Ugg should mean to us.
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