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March 7, 2009

Having just purchased a pair of UGG boots from a website UGGBOOTSFORALL.COM.AU for my daughter’s birthday, I am surprised to hear they are not the genuine article.

If I had been less busy, I might have delved more deeply before buying – particularly as most of the sites offering UGG boots on the web were quite similar in that they did not give proper contact details (an email address is not enough), and had very inadequate returns policies, and indeed seemed to belong to the same organisation judging by the style and approach adopted in their terms of business.

As a number of these sites existed selling Australian UGG boots, I took the risk and bought the boots from this site in order to save time and money. I knew that UGG boots were supposed to cost £130 or so, and if I thought about it at all I suppose I assumed UGG boots emanate from Australia, and were cheaper (I paid about £60) if bought directly from a vendor over there. Although I did also pay £15 postage and £20 duty, so it wasn’t that much cheaper in fact. When I saw a number of sites selling Australian UGG boots, all of which made some claim to be the genuine article – because the inferior sort were reportedly made in China – I assumed that UGG was a geographical symbol rather like Champagne. That the boots could be made by different manufacturers who could all use the name UGG provided they emanated from Australia.

So, how surprised was I when my daughter soon discovered that her UGG boots were in fact fakes, because, for example they stained her feet black. When I told her I had been reassured by the Australian origin, and indeed had specifically purchased them from a site in Australia because I assumed this would get us the real thing, I was amazed to hear from her that apparently the genuine UGG boots are made in China not Australia.

The site I bought from had a notice saying that they were not associated with some company whose products were made in China. The company’s name was Decker, which meant nothing to me. I simply took the notice and in particular the reference to made in China to mean that the company was not selling the genuine article, while the site itself was doing so.

So, a quick look on wiki revealed all. Apparently UGG is a generic term in Australia and Deckers lost its Australian trademark in January 2006. According to the Registrar of Trade Marks: “[t]he evidence overwhelmingly supports the proposition that the terms UGH BOOT(S), UG BOOT(S) and UGG BOOT(S) are interchangeably used to describe a specific style of sheepskin boot and are the first and most natural way in which to describe these goods which should innocently come to the minds of people making this particular style of sheepskin boot.”

Deckers Outdoor Corporation still holds the trademark in the United States and the European Union and refers to their product as “UGG footwear”.
I actually feel very annoyed at Deckers for not stopping these sites selling their UGG boots into the European Union. By failing to enforce their trademark rights they have allowed these sites to confuse me and countless other consumers no doubt.

Another reason I am annoyed at Deckers is that they are unwittingly colluding in this public confusion by their very logo which says UGG Australia. It would be so easy to avoid this public confusion if they changed their brand to DECKERS UGG australia.

Had they taken either of these steps it would have been much easier for my daughter to communicate what brand she wanted me to buy for her as a present. Of course she is disappointed. Also, I would have thought the company itself would profit much more by having a recognisable brand worldwide, and preventing such confusion in the marketplace. To anyone from Deckers reading this blog please pass on my message to the powers that be that it may be time they looked for a new trademark adviser – perhaps me?  Clearly, Ugg needs to do something fast because the fact that it is now having its boots made in China and its competitors are using this to imply that it is not a genuine Ugg boot, is in my view likely to do serious harm to its brand.

In return for this valuable feedback and advice, I would be happy with a genuine pair of UGG boots (UK size 5, black) for my daughter!