North Face Takes On South Butt

Posted on February 24, 2010

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The outdoor clothing giant The North Face Apparel Co. (“The North Face”) has filed a trademark infringement suit against a Mizzou freshman who started a company called The South Butt to help pay for college.

The North Face’s tag line is “Never Stop Exploring” while The South Butt sells products with the tag line “Never Stop Relaxing.” The South Butt’s founder, Jimmy Winkelmann, has said the fleece jackets and other clothing sold by his company are intended to mock people who wear brand-name clothing sold by outfitters like The North Face.

In The South Butt’s online disclaimer, which may be found on the company’s home page, the company states that they are not related to The North Face and do not wish to be confused with  its products. The disclaimer reads, “If you are unable to discern the difference between a face and a butt, we encourage you to buy North Face products.”

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, alleges trademark infringement, trademark dilution and unfair competition.  “Unfortunately and inevitably, The North Face’s success attracts opportunists seeking to pirate its famous trademarks for their inferior knockoffs,” the complaint says. The suit goes on to say that the defendants “may try to legitimize their piracy under the banner of parody,” but “their own conduct belies that claim.” It points to Winkelmann’s offer to sell his company to The North Face for $1 million, made after The North Face demanded an end to the sales of The South Butt’s products.

Winkelmann and his attorney, Albert Watkins, decided to fight back and filed a reply brief and a motion to dismiss the suit.

A federal judge has ordered North Face and South Butt to try to work out a solution to their conflict through mediation during the last few weeks of March.

I will keep you informed as things progress with this case.

Elizabeth Ritter

Goodrich Law Firm, LLC

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