Ever wonder where the UGG brand name originated? According to a recently filed suit in the District of Minnesota, in the early days of aviation, Australian pilots wrapped their feet and legs with sheepskin to keep warm in unheated airplanes. Allegedly, the wraps were so ugly, the pilots referred to them as “UGGS.” Many American women would be dismayed to learn the origin of the ubiquitous UGG brand, regarded as an upscale and fashionable footwear company.
As for the substance of the suit, Ugglebo Clogs, LLC filed suit against Deckers Outdoor Corporation, the owner of the UGG brand, alleging that Ugglebo has manufactured clogs and clog boots under the UGGLEBO mark since the 1960’s.
Ugglebo alleges claims for unfair competition under the Lanham Act, common law unfair competition, and deceptive trade practices under the Minnesota Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Ugglebo argues that UGG is generic in Australia to describe sheepskin boots and that, “through aggressive litigation, coincidence, and advertising,” the owner of the UGG brand has converted a generic term into a trademark for footwear.
Interestingly, Ugglebo does not allege that consumers are likely to believe that Ugg products are manufactured by or affiliated with Ugglebo. Rather, Ugglebo alleges that consumers, wholesalers and retailers will conclude that Ugglebo is attempting to trade off the UGG mark. The timing of the suit also raises several questions because the UGG mark has been used for footwear in the United States since at least 1998 and UGG was named “brand of the year” by Footwear News in 2003, nearly a decade ago. It’s hard to predict how Ugglebo will counter Deckers’ inevitable laches argument, but at the outset it appears that Ugglebo will argue that Deckers only recently began manufacturing clogs under the UGG mark, bringing about the likelihood of confusion and the subsequent lawsuit.
The case is Ugglebo Clogs, LLC v. Deckers Outdoor Corp., 0:11-cv-00154.