An Ugg-ly Battle – Again

I’d like to point everyone to another incident where a company has placed a bar on the use of a word when that word has been in common usage throughout the world for longer than man has been wearing sheepskin boots.

Have a look here
(especially this bit:
Deckers use the brand name UGG Australia, but the boots are manufactured in China. Under the Australian Consumer Law, it is unlawful to make misleading statements about a product, including misleading customers about the origin of the product. [this is because someone thinks consumers won’t think the product is a product of Australia if it has the name Australia on it – and we don’t, do we? I mean, I could say ‘American pie’ and it doesn’t mean it has anything to do with America, does it? Grrrr – I hate when companies deliberately treat their consumers as idiots!]),

and here (with this: “ugg” should never have been trademarked because it’s a common word in Australia. But Deckers claimed it made ugg a global brand. [never mind that hide boots, with the fur inside, have been around since way into the BC times – let’s not consider that common knowledge when discussing ownership of something ‘everyone knows the name of’])

A word in common usage? Yes, that’s what Ugg is. I might dispute that it’s only common in Australia, because the word has been applied to those ugly boots for much longer than Australia has been a country, probably longer than America has been a country.

But a company made the word unavailable for commercial use, even though it’s a word in common use in more places that a person could poke a stick at.

If it sounds a lot like the ‘cocky’ incident, you may be right.

The word ‘Ugg’ has been the tag of sheepskin boots for as long as winters have been too cold for leather sandals.

Really? I hear you ask.


Oooh, ooooh – I should trade-mark Sandal! Make it special characters, and then trademark it so no one can use the word ever again!

No, that would be silly, and everyone would know what lay behind that strategy, wouldn’t they?

But some company did that. They took a word, and claimed ownership in multiple countries because they trademarked a word in common language.

And now we can’t use it, no company who’s used the word can put it in their marketing ever again, and the only company who can use the name is the one who lies about where it came from, where they make it, and how they came to ‘own’ the word.

Maybe they think they created it? I don’t know, but it must have been a very long family tradition, older than the Roman legions, who referred to their ‘ugly hide boots’ when sacking cold regions. You know, the same ones that decided good-old ugly skin-coats were a good idea, even though ugly? [Hmmm, I’m even thinking it may go a long way further back, this idea of using animal hides to make protective clothing and footwear …]

‘Ugly’ – yes, that’s the word. Ugg-ly. And it was brought back to the fore of usage by Aussie and Kiwi wearers about 70 years ago (or was it in the 1920s? I’ve seen ads from that time for these boots). Common usage in the language, so common that no one even considered trying to fight for the sole use of a word that everyone understood was common and unassailable, available to all, and not a trademark (which would involve an image, wouldn’t it? And only the image, not the word, would be a trademark? And certainly not the word Australia, which has nothing to do with this company [and if they keep this up, never will again – can we make up a list of companies that steal stuff and ban them from selling on our shores?]).

The main issue is this: A word in common usage is not a trademark, and there is something dodgy going on, isn’t there?

Yes. Because the knowledge of the common use of the word around the world didn’t stop someone signing the paperwork to get this word trade-marked, and not just in America, but in multiple international legal regions.

A call to arms, perhaps?

Anyone doing business with this company (I won’t say their name, they’re persona non-grata in this part of the world) would do well to trademark every word they use on their products, because if they can do it with this, you can be sure they’ve got their eye on … yours.

Ban this company from using the name Australia in an image.

Ban this company from selling into Australia – and anywhere else they ‘own’ this word.

Ban this company and all it’s known employees from entering Australia (and any other country where they claim to ‘own’ this word) for any reason (in case they find something else to steal or claim).

If they have the money to keep pestering the only person willing to stand up to them, they have enough money to change their logo to suit their product, and to market said product into the countries without killing off any competition. [Did anyone mention it was an online sale, not an in-country sale? It was. And to an employee of said bully-company.]

Because this will not be the last time they do it, not now that they think they’ve won the war to own a word.

Have your say on
Twitter @legalvision_au

Want it again:
Twitter @legalvision_au – but do it fast, or we may no longer have the right to use a website to sell our products anywhere but our own country.

And in attempting to find a ‘free’ image to use for this post, guess what? Everyone’s pulled them down. Running scared. Does someone know something about this?

This post will self-destruct in 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 …

15 thoughts on “An Ugg-ly Battle – Again

    • I don’t think they have the ‘what’s-it’s’ to stand up to this type of crap. They only know how to bitch at each other, not actually do anything.
      Yes, I might be a bit cranky, but this thing should never have got this far – no company can own a word unless they create the word from their names, a new product, or something novel and unique. A trademark is a mark, not a common word.
      I’d like to spread the word and stop this before it goes too far and the big corps own everything, even the right to speak on comms devices (oh, they already do? I must be getting old).

      Liked by 1 person

    • It is, and the approval of the trademark is also at fault – if a trademark includes the name of a foreign country, any foreign country, it’s supposed to be an automatic refusal. Why didn’t the refusal happen? How did the minds behind the req to trademark not see it as implied acknowledgement of the theft from that country’s use of the term?

      Liked by 1 person

    • It is a minefield, but if I (or anyone else) used the logic used in this case, we’d be able to trademark something like ‘Mocassins American’ (in multiple countries) and then stop all production and sales of the people who currently do make and sell this common product – because it’s not a common item in this country! true, that’s their legal argument – that it’s a novel item in America, and therefore …
      But Ugg boots didn’t ever start as a brand name, only a style of cheap sheepskin boots that were ‘ugly’ and ‘ungainly’. The company has taken the name and trademarked it so they can sue anyone else who has or will or historically used the term or product, it seems.
      It is a nightmare, but it needs to stop. It’s a small world, and by allowing the big companies to stomp on the smaller competitors, we are creating or enabling the monster to eat everything in its path. Where does it stop?
      The silly woman who trademarked a word on her book titles and then tried to sue other authors who used the word is just one of many of these types of issues. We can’t afford to be complacent, or there’ll be nothing left that is ‘available for common use and understanding’ despite the legal need for ‘what would a reasonable person understand this to mean?’

      Maybe I need to ask for financial backers for the moccasin project???

      I think I’m joking, but not too sure at this stage …


  1. I loved this story! And what a great education!!! I have a funny story about the UGG boots. I found a pair MANY years ago in the trash room of our mobile home park (a different one from where I am now). The toes were out, and I don’t have money to buy things like that so I took them to a shoe repair place. They added some pieces of suede to cover the toes, and that was good enough for me. They may have done some stupid stuff, but those boots fit my feet, and they were so nice and warm and comfortable. I think that was perhaps 2009, and I still have those old now raggedy boots. I am thinking of buying another piece of suede, or perhaps I have some as I do various kinds of art, and if I do, I will cover those boot toes again and keep wearing them for my slippers. They might have a stupid manufacturer, but I never would have had a real pair of them, so I am happy for my trash find. To contribute to this article however, I want it known that I shall never refer to them as UGGs again. Perhaps I should call them Piggy Boots – would that be fitting? Or maybe someone else can come up with a more appropriate but humorous name for me to call my boots. Thank you kindly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really think they should be called uggs, just as mocassins should be called mocassins – but no one should own the right to either name to the exclusion of all others. Dogs are called dogs, cats are called cats – who in their right mind would want to own those names?
      Uggs are boots made of sheep skin, as ugly as they are utilitarian (and very warm).

      Liked by 1 person

      • I totally agree with you on that. Yes, no one should be the only one who can use a name. I remember that I used to do quilt and textile appraisals and give talks that people liked very much for many years. I called it “The Quilt Doctor is In” and people could ask me all kinds of questions and I would answer them. Then one day I got a note from a woman who said that she owned that title and that she had a trademark and if I used it again, she would take me to court. Such a nasty person, and what difference did it really make when we were in different parts of the U.S.? Well, I stopped using it, but I always thought how truly petty that was and she was NOT the first person to use that title. I just did not want to fight it. Thanks so much.

        Liked by 1 person

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