In a case that is a real life global version of The Castle, a Sydney-based ugg boot maker is being sued in a US court. The case brought by global US footwear company Deckers seeking global injunctions to prevent Australian Leather Pty Ltd from describing their ugg boots as ‘ugg boots’ anywhere in the world.
Eddie Oygur, the founder and owner of family business Australian Leather has been making ugg boots since the early 1990s. His business provides jobs for 40 people locally and makes 50,000 pairs of ugg boots using Australian sheepskins.
Deckers Corporation, with a turnover of more than $2.4billion owns the trademark ‘Ugg Australia’ and has sought to stop Australian Leather using the term. Ugg boots are also made by a handful of Australian owned and based companies. The unprecedented court action, if successful, will shut down Eddie’s business because the sweeping orders sought include:
1. Multi-million dollar punitive damages;
2. All of Australian Leather’s ugg boot stock be delivered to Deckers for destruction; and
3. All funds in Australian Leather’s bank accounts be transferred to Deckers.
Ugg boots are a quintessentially Australian product - the product and name were invented here, they’re not just part of our culture, they create local jobs and export earnings. This form of legal bullying has already forced other companies to stop exporting ugg boots and in another case from even using the words ugg boots. Eddie wants Australia to fight back and he deserves the support of the Parliament and the government.
Senator Xenophon has foreshadowed introducing legislation, if re-elected, into the Senate after the election that will protect the use by Australian companies of the term ‘ugg’.
“This legal action seems as ridiculous an Australian company trademarking ‘Apple Pie’ in the US and preventing Americans from selling apple pies,” Nick said.
Senator Xenophon pointed to legislation in Europe that protects the names of iconic products as a precedent.
“If the French can protect ‘Champagne’, the Portuguese ‘Port’, the Spanish ‘Sherry’ and the Greeks ‘Feta’, then surely Australia can protect the word ‘Ugg’,” Nick said.
Eddie Oyger said: “If the legal protection was provided it would create many hundreds of jobs and tens of millions in export earnings amongst Australian ugg boot makers.
Senator Xenophon said: “If this election is really all about jobs then the major parties need to stand up for genuine Australian businesses and ensure a level playing field.”
It is believed that Deckers which markets under ‘Ugg Australia’, makes the boots in China and does not in fact use Australian sheepskins.
“We need to ask whether the only thing Australian about Deckers’ Ugg Australia ugg boots is the name,” Nick said.
Senator Xenophon will be filing a complaint with the ACCC, and will also write to the Prime Minister to seek immediate support for Australian Leather in the legal dispute and legislation.
Eddie’s business is facing a massive legal bill to fight the case in the US District Court which could cost up to half a million dollars.