Walmart Inc. could be on the hook for selling alleged knockoffs of a popular Ugg boot style.
Ugg owner Deckers Outdoor Corp. accused Walmart of selling an unauthorized copy of the “Bailey Button” Ugg boot, which features a “unique” side-button detail, making the retail giant part of an “effort to exploit” Deckers’ reputation, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in California federal court.
Deckers is also bringing claims of trade dress infringement against Reliable Knitting Works, the Milwaukee company allegedly manufacturing the boots sold by Walmart. Although the boot does not appear to be trademarked, Deckers is arguing that the Bailey boot’s “widespread acceptance and recognition among the consuming public” is enough to give its legal rights.
“The Bailey Button Boot trade dress is one of the most well-recognized and commercially successful styles of Deckers’ Ugg brand of footwear, having been featured on Deckers’ advertising and promotional materials as well as in various trade publications,” the company wrote in its complaint. “Furthermore, the Bailey Button Boot trade dress had been featured in connection with various celebrities, has received a large volume of unsolicited media attention, and has graced the pages of many popular magazines nationwide and internationally.”
Given the “confusingly similar” look of the boots made by Reliable Knitting and sold by Walmart, Deckers said shoppers will believe them to be genuine Uggs or think the alleged copies are at least endorsed in some way by the brand.
With that, Deckers asked the court to immediately enjoin Walmart from selling and Reliable Knitting from making the purported copy, with a permanent injunction to be the ultimate ruling in the case. Deckers is also looking to recover unspecified damages, including all profits gained from the sale of the boot at issue.
A Walmart spokesman said: “We respect intellectual property rights and take these allegations seriously. We are reviewing the complaint and will respond as appropriate with the court.”
A representative of Reliable Knitting could not be reached for comment.
Deckers is a frequent enforcer of its intellectual property rights surrounding the Ugg brand, but last fall it also launched a $1 million lawsuit against Sears Corp. and Kmart for allegedly manufacturing and selling copies of a sandal by Sanuk.
The company, like many in the apparel and retail sector, is facing some financial hurdles and early last year put itself up for sale. A deal did not materialize after several months and Deckers has since decided to pursue a reorganization, but it remains “open” to a transaction if there’s one to be had.
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