Jimmy Winkleman Jr. is a 19 year old freshman at Missouri University who started a “leisure wear” company called The South Butt. The fleece wear products sold by The South Butt bear a striking resemblance with The North Face apparel, most especially the Denali Jacket. The North Face thinks that the similarities between the two brands and products will cause confusion for the general consumer. The South Butt founder, Jimmy Jr. points out however, that the general public is quite savvy and “capable of telling the difference between a butt and a face.” aba journal article Despite this ever so insightful remark by the founder, The North Face is not taking this lightly. In December of 2009 The North Face filed suit against The South Butt in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, alleging infringement, trademark dilution and unfair competition.
In my opinion, The North Face has a tough fight, but potentially a winning one. It is good to see a large company like The North Face fighting this type of litigation. With intellectual property (the brand generally speaking) being the most valuable asset a company has, it is imperative that these types of legal battles are fought. Unless you enforce the trademark, you basically lose it. Non-enforcement can in some cases be seen as permission to use the brand. The dissolution of the brand due to non-enforcement of the trademark is sometimes referred to as genericide.