Tuesday, April 6, 2010

B.A.F.F.L.E.D. Legal Battles

North and South Meet in the Middle

Cold weather apparel maker, The North Face has reached a settlement in their December 2009 suit against parody apparel maker, The South Butt. North Face filed the suit claiming trademark infringement and dilution of their brand, resulting from the rising popularity and profits of South Butt.

The South Butt was founded by a 19-year old University of Missouri freshman, as a joke which has a bigger punch line than imagined. He began selling the clothes through a Columbia, MO pharmacy and online, spreading the comedic attire like fire. To no surprise, North Face was outraged by the clothing line, and sent their unwanted counterpart a cease & desist letter. It was ignored.

Trademark infringement is characterized largely by confusion in the market. Where consumers may be led to believe 2 entities are related, infringement likely looms. The North Face rightfully argued their reputation was being tarnished. The South Butt was not only making fun of their brand, but profiting from it as well. Although parodies are protected under trademark law, parodies making enough to cover college tuition are not!

Somehow the 2 poles have found a way to settle their bout, with obvious reluctance on both ends. Did the young entrepreneur take his joke too far? Did the well established corporation blow this one out of proportion? Aside from the legal implications, what do you make of the case?

Maybe this calls for a true collaborative effort?
Let’s watch for updates on this settlement.

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