Thursday, 16 September 2010


As I generally consider Ugg boots a public bad, their monopolization under dodgy use of trademark law serves to restrict supply and consequently gives me utils (or, rather, reduces util-depletion from seeing Uggs). Being publicly spirited, though, I still don't like the trademark trolling. Salmon notes that Ugg was a term in common use in Oz for a style of boot before it was trademarked in the States. The Ugg company then outsourced production to China and threatened trademark litigation against the original Australian companies that made the boots in the first place. Classy.
The point is that there are lots of Ugg boots. The most popular Uggs are made by a US company in China. That company owns a bunch of trademarks, which somehow means that the WSJ can talk with a straight face about “genuine UGG boots”, while saying that all other Ugg boots are fakes. But the fact is that an Australian Ugg boot, made by a company which long predates the Ugg trademark, is by any sensible definition just as genuine, if not more so, than the boots that the WSJ is falling over itself teaching us to recognize and distinguish.

Yet somehow Conley feels impelled to inform us that if a boot is made in Australia — the home of the Ugg boot — then “it is not an UGG”.

To give an example of how ridiculous this all is, imagine that an American company — maybe even Deckers, you never know — decided to buy up a small knife-making company in Thiers, France. And say that after doing so, it started to register the name Laguiole, and the famous bee symbol, in jurisdictions around the world.

Deckers then decides to outsource production of Laguiole knives to China, while at the same time slapping anybody else trying to sell Laguiole knives with a cease-and-desist order. It starts impounding any Laguiole knives which are imported into the US, and shuts down any market in Laguiole knives on eBay or in other marketplaces.

Laguiole knives have been made by thousands of French craftsmen for over 150 years, but suddenly there would only be one “genuine Laguiole® knife”, and all the others would, overnight, be branded “counterfeits” or “fakes”; their sales would collapse, while Deckers would essentially hijack all of the brand value which has been painstakingly built up over the generations. And heaven forfend that anybody else try to make Laguiole knives in China — those would get seized at customs, and branded as “blatant criminal operations” by Deckers’ in-house counsel.

If that were to happen, one would hope that the WSJ would try to expose the evil trademark troll, instead of running gushing articles about how the company was serving up “stunning results in the midst of a global recession”. It certainly wouldn’t — one hopes — tell its readers how to make sure they were buying a genuine Laguiole® knife rather than an expensive French “fake”.

Conley mentions in passing, in his piece, that after Deckers lost the lawsuit in Australia, it failed to pay certain legal costs of the winning side, as required under Australian law.

1 comment:

  1. So is it ugg (i.e. sheepskin) boots in general you have issue with, or just the Ugg-brand boots? Your post above suggests to me it is the antics of the owners of the Ugg brand.

    I am a fan of the sheepskin boot in general, although they're not something I wear outside the confines of my own home. This is mainly because: 1) I'm not a teenage girl, and 2) I see them as essentially being slippers and therefore not suitable for the rigours of the mall shopping experience.