The Australian defendant in a legal fight over the brand name Ugg hopes to expand his business, should he win.
Australian Leather, a Sydney-based manufacturer of Ugg boots, is in court against American company Deckers, fighting to be able to use the name Ugg on his products overseas.
Senator Nick Xenophon has been in the United States supporting Australian Leather chief executive Eddie Oygur.
The case is expected to go to trial next year, and Senator Xenophon said the battle over the brand name was affecting the Australian sheepskin industry.
“If Eddie wins this case, I’m very confident that there will be a bigger Ugg boot industry in South Australia,” he said.
“It’s not just about Eddie and his business, it’s about every other manufacturer in the country that is being held back because they cannot export Australian quality Ugg boots to the rest of the world.”
Senator Xenophon said in preparing for the case, Mr Oygur had looked into the origins of the boot.
“Eddie’s discovered through his lawyers that the term Ugg, and Ugg boots, were actually kicked off in South Australia in the 1960s during the surfing scene, so there’s a very strong South Australian connection,” he said.
“If Eddie wins the case, he actually wants to set up a factory in South Australia using South Australian sheepskin to export those Ugg boots to the rest of the world.”
Trademark battle stalls manufacturing
Australian Sheepskin Association president Tony Butler said the American ownership of the trademark had stalled local manufacturing of the product.
“If we could sell the word ugg overseas and the product wasn’t being imported from China, then sent back again pretending to be made in Australia, we’d be employing another 1,000 people at least to manufacture Ugg boots to go back to the rest of the world,” he said.
Mr Butler said knock-off products from countries such as China were the biggest threat to the Australian industry.
He said many were falsely labelled as being made in Australia, or had the Made in China tags removed before being sold locally.
“At the moment it’s very easy to tell, to the average person, that if there’s no label in there, it’s probably an import,” Mr Butler said.
“But it’s very easy to trick consumers with false and misleading advertising, which is rampant.”
Ugg boots convenient for surfers
Kiwi White is a well-known surfer around South Australia’s west coast, and a big fan of Ugg boots.
He remembered working in Adelaide when he was younger and going to the shoemakers in Gawler Place and Victoria Square, who were pioneering the shoe.
Mr White said it was no wonder they had remained popular among surfers.
“Surfers were originally surfing in a pair of board shorts and old footy jumpers, and we had no leg ropes in those days,” he said.
“When we came in from the surf, we’d sit in front of the fire and then you would warm up and put your clothes on.
“And Ugg boots were fantastic. You could slip them on easily and slip them off. They were just very, very, convenient.”
–Top Twitter To Follow: