The Ugg Boot Story

There are different claims to the origins of the ugg boot. Sheepskin boots were known in rural Australia during the 1920s, and were reportedly being manufactured in in New South Wales in 1933. The origin of the term "ugg" is disputed but the trademark "UGH-BOOTS" was registered in Australia in 1971 and the name “ugg” possibly evolved from the "fug boots" worn by UK Royal Air Force pilots during World War I.

The Macquarie Dictionary of the Australian language first included a definition for "ugg boot" as a generic term for sheepskin boots in its 1981 edition and after movie theatres in Sydney banned ugg boots and ripped jeans, the footwear became somewhat popular in the youth market as a sign of rebellion.

Surfing helped popularise the boots outside Australia and New Zealand and in 1985 the trademark "Original UGG Boot UGG Australia" was registered in the US. In 1990 "UGG" was registered as a trade mark in the UK and then in 1996 various other trademarks for "UGG" were registered in the US where sales grew to nearly $700million by 2008.  

The trademarking of the UGG name has been the subject of dispute in several countries. Deckers Outdoor Corporation won trademark disputes in the US, the Netherlands, and Turkey and in 1999, Deckers began asserting its new trademark and sent out cease and desist letters to Australian manufacturers that were selling sheepskin boots outside of Australia via the internet.

By the early 2000’s, demand for UGG boots was soaring with Australian and US-based manufacturers selling sheepskin boots over the Internet and there was confusion among consumers between generic ugg boots made in Australia and Deckers' UGG brand boots.

In response to the actions by Deckers, some Australian manufacturers formed the Australian Sheepskin Association to fight the corporation's claim, arguing that "ugg" is a generic term referring to flat-heeled, pull-on sheepskin boots.

For two years members of the new association searched for hard evidence that the ugg words in all spellings were generic. Thousands of references were found in magazines, newspapers and telephone directories in Australia, the US and the UK going back to 1936. Many other documents were found with reference to “thigh high sheepskin Fug boots" as early as 1916, which were worn by pilots and navigators in open-cockpit aeroplanes in World War I. Dozens of Statutory Declarations were made by people who had been in the ugg boot manufacturing industry for the past 50 years stating that sheepskin boots had always been referred to as ugg boots (with various spellings), and in 2006, the Australian Trademarks Office handed down their decision that the evidence was “overwhelming” that the terms ‘ugg boots’, ‘ug boots’ and ‘ugh boots’ were generic terms and could be used by anyone in Australia to refer to sheepskin boots.

Whilst Deckers still own trademarks for the word ‘ugg’ in many countries for sheepskin footwear, they can no longer legally threaten businesses in Australia from using the term in Australia.

By refusing to buckle to the might and power of a US corporate, a group of Australian manufacturers was able to continue to make the iconic Australian Ugg boots.


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