Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/10/02/north_butt/
The North Face trips over The South Butt
Apparel outfit rattles trademark sabre at Missouri teen
LogoWatch A Missouri teenager is defying the might of clothing manufacturer The North Face, which is a bit hacked off at his "The South Butt" range of clobber.
The North Face Apparel Corp moved in August to eliminate the threat to its international business posed by 18-year-old Jimmy Winkelmann and his company The South Butt, LLC.
Jordan LaVine, a lawyer acting for the company, sent Winkelmann a letter on 14 August insisting the rival logos are sufficiently similar to provoke "consumer confusion as to the source, sponsorship or affiliation of particular problems and services that could dilute or tarnish the distinctive quality of the famous and distinctive TNFAC marks".
Winkelmann told ABC News: "I was like, 'How did they even find me?' It was ridiculous."
A fair question, since the enterprising teen's business is a modest affair he set up two years ago after "he and his high school pals were poking fun at the kids at their private high school who satisfied their need to belong by buying the exact same jackets and vests".
He explained: "People thought it was so cool to wear The North Face fleeces. Everybody had to have them."
Cue the "South Butt" idea, which started as a joke, then "just, like, escalated".
Winkelmann raked in about $4k in his first year, most of which went back into stock. He says he's pocketed around $2k in the last year, which he's spent on funding his biomedical engineering with a business minor studies at the University of Missouri.
Luckily for him, he won't need to splash out on legal fees. He's represented in his battle with The North Face by attorney Albert Watkins, who "plays squash with his client's father and traded his services for a really good bottle of burgundy".
On 10 September, Watkins replied to The North Face's original cease-and-desist missive, defending: "I am compelled to respectfully disagree with the posture or assertion that 'The South Butt' would in any way give rise to confusion on the part of any person.
"In fact, the sense of parody employed by Jimmy within the context of his South Butt undertakings clearly demonstrate a respectful, if not flattering 'anti-North Face' posture designed in all respects to distinguish itself from any and all North Face products."
Watkins also offered The North Face the chance to get its hands on The South Butt for $1m - an offer which has now been withdrawn due to the former's "lack of action" on the matter.
The North Face told ABC News in an email: "The North Face is all for creativity, 'butt' we opposed Jimmy Winkelmann's logo in order to protect our famous trademark. And, just to be clear, we have not sued him.
"Like thousands of companies around the world, we work diligently to protect trademark rights. This situation is, in reality, a serious problem companies deal with every day."
Quite what The North Face does next remains to be seen. Watkins said that any further legal action by company will only serve to "steel my client's resolve to stand up and fight".
Inevitably, the rumpus has seen The South Butt sales skyrocket. Winkelmann says he sold around 200 items of clothing in the past two years, but had shifted the same amount in the last few days and is "now rushing to fill back orders and get new inventory manufactured". ®