/ February 17, 2010

South Butt: What’s In A Name?

Just in time for the Winter Olympics, we bring you news of a trademark lawsuit to weird to be made up.

Last week, in the Missouri Eastern District Court, Judge Rodney W. Sippel denied South Butt’s request to dismiss a trademark infringement lawsuit brought against the clothing company by North Face.  (Yes, you read that correctly — North Face is suing South Butt for trademark infringement).


cc licensed flickr photo shared by H Dragon

The order by Judge Sippel starts with a quote by humorist Franklin P. Jones:

“It’s a strange world of language in which skating on thin ice can get you into hot water.”

Judge Sippel also noted that he did not find it “implausible” that South Butt’s logo could cause confusion or dilution of North Face’s trademark.

South Butt has responded with humor over the dispute – both in its releases and its legal filings. In South Butt’s written response to the trademark allegation in early January, attorney Al Watkins playfully included a photo of South Butt’s 18-year-old founder Jimmy Winkelmann and described him as “a handsome cross between Mad Magazines’s Alfred E. Newman of ‘What Me Worry’ fame and Skippy the Punk from the Midwest. Watkins also noted that North Face’s decision to sue South Butt last December has resulted in a financial boom for his client.

Last week, Judge Sippel warned South Butt’s attorney against making requests with little merit:  “Although this filing may not reach the level of frivolty, it approaches the line.”

South Butt was started in 2007 by Winkelmann as a means to spoof a status symbol at his former school, Chaminade College Prep. He began selling T-shirts, fleeces and shorts at Ladue Pharmacy. North Face is now suing Winkelmann and the pharmacy over the South Butt name.

Read the full order at Patently-O and check out the Boston Herald for additional coverage.

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