Australian Sheepskin Association Inc.

Protecting and Promoting
Australian Made Sheepskin Products

Australian Sheepskin Association Inc.


SAVE OUR AUSSIE ICON! The Great Australian Ugg Boot!


Many of you will have read that an American company (Deckers Outdoor Corporation {Deckers}), who use the label UGG Australia, had their lawyers send out threatening letters to most if not all manufacturers and retailers in Australia selling ugg boots.  In essence, Deckers claimed to own the trademark “ugg” which has been trademarked in the U.S. and “ugh” and “ugh-boots” which were old, unused trademarks they purchased in Australia in 1996.  (It has always been and still is, our contention that these Australian trademarks should never have been registered (1971) as they were common terms for sheepskin boots decades before being registered.

When the first U.S. trademark was going through in the U.S., when asked by the U.S.A. federal trademark office’s examiner, Susan Heller, on March the 7th 1986 “what is the significance of the term ugg?”, she was told under oath that “There is no significance of the term ugg in the relevant trade or industry.”  This is despite the fact that many years prior, ugg, ug and ugh were all generic terms for sheepskin boots and were so much a part of popular culture, they were referenced in Australian dictionaries and had been advertised as ‘ugg boots’ in U.S. magazines as early as 1970 (we actually have a 1970 edition of one of these magazines).

Deckers argued that they had spent millions of dollars in marketing the term ‘ugg’.  What about the millions spent for at least 70 years by Australian manufacturers?  Proper due diligence would have yielded the term’s genericness.

Trademark law clearly states that no protection exists for generic words.  Handing over exclusive use to any one company would end up in the loss of jobs and businesses because none of the small businesses involved could afford to re-educate customers to search on a NEW common term or terms. Don’t forget that most of these small Australian businesses operate on the internet where search terms are the ONLY way to be found.  So developing a new name was just not a solution.

For two years members of the Australian Sheepskin Association (ASA) 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 U.S. and the U.K. 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.

In November 2005 Uggs-N-Rugs finally had a hearing with the Australian Trademarks Office (IP Australia) where their Trademark Attorney and Barrister presented the evidence and their case to have Deckers trademark for “ugh-boots” removed from the Register. 

On 16th January 2006, the 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, and that the trademark ‘ugh-boots’ be removed from the Register. A complete copy of this decision is available online.

The ASA had applied for the removal of the trademark ‘ugh’ and as a result of the above decision, had their attorneys write to Deckers attorneys asking them to withdraw this trademark voluntarily.  This they did and their ‘ugh’ trademark was also removed from the Register.

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

Just remember, Deckers still own the trademark “UGG Australia” with a blazing sun logo underneath the words, but they are NOT Australian.

Beware of Fake Ugg Boots

Consumers should beware of fake ugg boots.  The dictionary definition of an "ugg boot" is "a sheepskin boot with the wool on the inside". An ugg boot must be made of real sheepskin. Due to the high cost of genuine sheepskin, one of the first warning bells will be a so called "ugg boot" advertised at a very cheap price. Make sure you have the genuine article before purchasing. Genuine sheepskin will outlast many synthetic products. Sheepskin is a natural product which breathes, absorbs moisture and provides a warmth and comfort superior to any synthetics. (Most synthetics become very smelly with wear). Real sheepskin has the wool tanned into the leather. Fake sheepskin can easily be recognised - if you part the fibres lining the boot with your fingers and there is a woven or knitted backing under the fibres it is NOT real sheepskin.

Care when buying online

Before buying online it's a good idea to carefully read through the website. Check that there is a physical address for the company, a landline phone number (not a cell phone) and a legitimate email address you can contact. Most genuine businesses are more than happy to make this information available. So, before you hand over your credit card details do your homework. For peace of mind when buying online we recommend you buy from one of our members.