Aussie shoemaker hires top lawyer to fight over ‘Ugg’ boots

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Aussie shoemaker hires top lawyer to fight over 'Ugg' boots

This Australia versus America showdown could get ugg-ly.

An Aussie mom-and-pop shoe business has drafted one of former President Bill Clinton’s highest-ranking administration officials to fight for ugg boots, the famously unstylish sheepskin footwear — and even the Australian government has joined the battle.

Australian shoemaker Eddie Oygur’s small suburban company, Australian Leather, has retained high-powered lawyer and former US Solicitor General Seth Waxman to convince the Supreme Court that US footwear giant Deckers cannot trademark the word “Ugg.” 

The Supreme Court bid argues that “Ugg” is a generic Australian term that should be protected against trademark in the same way companies cannot trademark French “champagne” or Greek “feta.”

The fleece-lined boots were first made popular Down Under by surfers in the 1960s but Deckers has trademarked the term in 130 countries, preventing Australian manufacturers from being able to cash in on the “Ugg” cachet overseas.

The California-based company bought a pair of the boots from Oygur’s website in 2016 — but then cried foul when the shoes arrived in the post because it claimed their US trademark had been infringed.

eddie oygur
Eddie Oygur says US footwear giant Deckers cannot trademark the word “Ugg.”
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Now, after the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit both sided with Deckers in the trademark tussle, the Aussie small business wants to bring it in front of the highest court in the land.

Aussie politician-turned-lawyer Nick Xenephon said the case is about more than just a trademark — it’s about fighting for Australian culture and taking on corporate goliaths.

Harvard attorneys Seth Waxman
Eddie Oygur has retained former US Solicitor General Seth Waxman.
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“Imagine if a foreign company trademarked ‘hot dog’, an obviously generic term in the USA, and then sued every mom-and-pop store that sold them for breach of trademark. It’s that ridiculous,” Xenephon told The Post.

“This case is a big deal, for Eddie and his tiny company, for Australia, and for trademark law internationally.”

The Australian government has even ponied up $150,000 to help cover the cost of the proposed appeal.

However, Waxman is lobbying the government to put on more pressure by becoming a “friend of the court” — which would boost the chances of the case reaching the Supreme Court.

In a letter to Australian Attorney-General Michaelia Cash, Waxman said the case could have “profound consequences” on how the US profits from generic terms taken from other English-speaking countries.

“A friend of the court (amicus curiae) brief from the Australian government supporting U.S. Supreme Court review is critical to ensure these important issues receive attention at the highest levels of the U.S. legal system and the rights of the Australian nationals in this case are vindicated,” he wrote.

eddie oygur
Eddie Oygur has a small suburban company, Australian Leather.
Australian Leather Ugg Boots

“I am confident that if the Supreme Court takes the case, we will be able to make strong arguments on the merits.”

He insisted the Australian government would have little to lose.

“Australia would not be intervening in the case, but rather just expressing its own views in a brief addressing the importance of Supreme Court review,” Waxman wrote.

“Australia would face no risk of being assessed damages, court costs, or Deckers’ attorney’s fees if Australian Leather does not prevail.”

eddie oygur's boots
US footwear giant Deckers bought a pair of the boots from Eddie Oygur’s website in 2016.
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Aussies living in the United States are also backing Oygur’s fight, telling The Post that they want their fashion symbol back.

“Ugg boots are as iconically Australian as Vegemite, the outback and Steve Irwin’s ‘crikey!’,” Australian turned Upper East Sider Jimmy Hodgson-van Daal said.

“If you don’t get why we care so much, walk a mile in our shoes.”

Deckers, meanwhile, claims it welcomes fair competition and only enforces its trademark to protect US shoppers from inferior imitations.

eddie oygur's boots
Seth Waxman said the case could have “profound consequences.”
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“This case was always about protecting American consumers from being deceived into buying counterfeited product offered for sale and sold online into the United States, where UGG is a registered trademark,” PR director at Ugg parent Deckers Brands Lindsey DiCola said in a statement.

The Australian government has been quietly lobbying to get its Ugg boots back since 2017 when then Australian Prime Minister directed the Australian Embassy in Washington to “reiterate Australia’s view that ‘Ugg’ is a generic term” but that the “Australian government has so far refused to become a “friend of the court.”

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