North Face Lawyers Try To Drag South Butt Family Through The Mud

from the a-bit-aggressive dept

We've been covering the bizarre and somewhat ridiculous fight that The North Face is putting up against a kid who created a parody line of clothing called The South Butt. You can read through the previous stories if you haven't been following this, but at its most basic, this is a trademark dispute. The North Face is claiming trademark infringement, and in doing so, demonstrating that it has no sense of humor. However, the latest legal shenanigans from the lawyers representing The North Face are bordering on cruel. In early depositions, it appears that they are trying to drag the names of the kid who created The South Butt and his father (Jimmy and James Winklemann) through the mud by digging up any kind of dirt on them that they can.

Joe Mullin points us to the news of a contentious deposition of the father, where The North Face's lawyers started bringing up a variety of old business partnerships, including one with someone who had pleaded guilty to stealing money from clients. What that has to do with your everyday trademark dispute is not clear, but it certainly angered the father (and also resulted in claims of a conflict of interest, in that the same law firm had apparently been involved with that former business partner in some manner).

Then there's the younger James (better known as Jimmy), and here the North Face lawyers chose to ask him about being charged as a minor for possessing alcohol at a party last fall, as well as being arrested for having a small amount of marijuana (a charge that was later changed to littering). Jimmy admits that this was embarassing, since his father was unaware of these minor infractions, but he ended up confessing to his father before the news of the deposition came out.

But, honestly, what is up with The North Face? They never should have filed this lawsuit in the first place, as it only makes them look like a bunch of bullies. If they were really concerned about protecting the trademark from being considered generic, why not give the kid a super cheap license and enjoy people finding the whole thing amusing. Instead, they're not just aggressively suing this kid, but bringing up a whole bunch of totally unrelated things to try to embarass both the son and his father. The North Face has gone from just being big corporate bullies to being out and out obnoxious jerks.


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    Dark Helmet (profile), Mar 26th, 2010 @ 11:15am

    Donde?

    "North Face Lawyers Try To Drag South Butt Family Through The Mud"

    There's a poop joke in there somewhere, but I can't seem to find it....

     

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    crade (profile), Mar 26th, 2010 @ 12:48pm

    He is obviously infinging our trademark your honour, afterall, he drinks, and might even smoke dope!

     

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    Ima Fish (profile), Mar 26th, 2010 @ 12:57pm

    I'm just sitting back and waiting until North Face and Monster Cable goes head to head. If they put that shit up on pay-per-view they'd make millions.

     

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    Tony, Mar 26th, 2010 @ 1:18pm

    Just did a live chat with North Face rep

    This was the canned response:

    "The North Face is all for creativity, but we opposed Jimmy Winkelman's logo in order to protect our famous trademark. And, just to be clear, we have not sued him.

    We respect genuine, entrepreneurial spirit; we are built on it. However, it's also important to maintain integrity and strong ethics in any business endeavor----such as the creation of a unique logo and brand identity.

    The North Face is named for the coldest, most unforgiving side of a mountain and our logo represents Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. For more than 40 years, The North Face has been manufacturing authentic and technically-advanced apparel and gear. Athletes and enthusiasts around the world recognize The North Face brand and logo as symbols of outdoor exploration.

    Like thousands of companies around the world, we work diligently to protect trademark rights. This situation is, in reality, a serious problem companies deal with every day."

    I politely asked that the rep pass along my distaste with their handling of the situation to those that might care what potential customers think of their company.

     

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      Chosen Reject, Mar 26th, 2010 @ 1:29pm

      Re: Just did a live chat with North Face rep

      I just tried to email them. Either their email system is broken, or I just submitted it a bunch of times.

       

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    matt, Mar 26th, 2010 @ 1:23pm

    Mike, don't be disingenuous

    Look at South Butt's online product catalog. They sell, for example, a fleece vest which is the exact same style, colors, & fabric as North Face Denali. They brand it with a logo which is quite similar using the same solid arched bands next to the brand name which uses a similar naming structure, a very similar font and the exact same typesetting.

    If you took the Nike swoosh, flipped it backwards then printed it on the exact same cut/color/style clothing as Nike, you could be violating their trademark.

    South Butt took a nearly identical logo and featured it on a line of clothing that seems to have the exact same cut/color/style as North Face. Isn't that a potential trademark violation? This doesn't seem at all akin to a case like Monster Cable bringing trademark action against a Monster Bike Shop or some other unrelated commercial venture.

    Although I totally agree about the improper conduct by NF's counsel. Bringing up municipal offenses committed by a minor in trademark mediation proceedings seems not only irrelevant but improper.

     

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      Ima Fish (profile), Mar 26th, 2010 @ 1:37pm

      Re: Mike, don't be disingenuous

      "the exact same style, colors, & fabric as North Face"

      Um, there is no law against selling clothing of identical style, color, or fabric of someone else.

       

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      Colin, Mar 26th, 2010 @ 1:40pm

      Re: Mike, don't be disingenuous

      Yep, it's exactly the same except for the entirely different words on the logo.

      And if "athletes and enthusiasts around the world recognize The North Face brand and logo as symbols of outdoor exploration", why are they worried about people getting this mixed up?

       

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      fogbugzd (profile), Mar 26th, 2010 @ 1:49pm

      Re: Mike, don't be disingenuous

      This is much different than just reversing the Nike logo. If someone did that, they would obviously be trying to confuse people who are looking for Nike products and fool them into buying their knock-offs. That is exactly the purpose of trademark law. Nike would win without question.

      In this case South Butt is not trying to confuse people. In fact, they are doing quite the opposite and making fun of themselves as well as the whole yuppiness factor that is embodied in the North Face product line.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2010 @ 1:28pm

    Where's the law-talking guys around here

    Are they allowed to ask irrelevant questions during depositions?

    Even if he didn't need to answer, the questions themselves seem harmful. It seems like there should be some sort of redress for irrelevant questions intended solely to embarrass.

     

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    Ben, Mar 26th, 2010 @ 1:30pm

    Sombody should dig up dirt..

    On the CEO, CFO, CTO & The corporate officers at North Face, you know that whole "pivot man at a circle jerk" kind of thing!

     

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    NAMELESS.ONE, Mar 26th, 2010 @ 1:33pm

    they try to do this with everyone

    SO dont download any pron and if they try shit GO POST THE laws REGARDING
    SLANDER and DEFAMTION as well AS PAIN and SUFFERING for damages of your country

    YES when they know you will counter sue or sue them back they back off

    If they had proper legal representation they WOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO ASK, or SPEAK of things NOT RELEVANT TO THE CASE

    thats called hearsay amongst a few things and if you do that often you can get a contempt of court if it's brought up.

     

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    crade (profile), Mar 26th, 2010 @ 1:34pm

    "If you took the Nike swoosh, flipped it backwards then printed it on the exact same cut/color/style clothing as Nike, you could be violating their trademark."
    The style of clothing has nothing to do with trademarks.

    As for the logo, if you look at the image portion seperately from the text, and you add in the fact that the guy was an underage drinker and may have smoked dope, it is similar.

     

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      TrademarksProtected (profile), Apr 5th, 2010 @ 11:42am

      Re: Nike Swoosh comment

      fyi - the style of clothing has everything to do with the trademark infringement.

      if South Butt was using the trademark (which consists of the words and the design) on power tools, this wouldn't be a threat to The North Face. It is the "likelihood of confusion" aspect that is the basis of their claim; people are likely to believe that The South Butt is related or sponsored by The North Face. Why? Because the CLOTHING IS IDENTICAL.

      In analyzing Trademark cases, there are two levels: are the marks identical? and are the goods/services related?

       

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    NAMELESS.ONE, Mar 26th, 2010 @ 1:35pm

    @4

    gave me an idea for a matrix like combat sequence with a legal preceding LOL

    can end with the judges gavel smashing down

     

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    OldGeek, Mar 26th, 2010 @ 1:39pm

    Really

    The real problem is the kid is selling the quality of stuff for half the price. He's showing the world that Northface is gouging the he11 out of there customers, and the spoiled brats don't like it.

     

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    Nastybutler77 (profile), Mar 26th, 2010 @ 1:52pm

    Not how I'd like to be known

    I feel bad that they are now known as "the South Butt Family." At least the Manson Family has a nice ring to it.

     

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    Matthew, Mar 26th, 2010 @ 1:58pm

    I've been following this on techdirt for a while, and every time I read the title it always makes me laugh a little.


    This particular update reminds me of a governor race, or any political race where they show those stupid commercials with dirt that they dug up about his/her competitor.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2010 @ 2:20pm

    I will never buy northface

     

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      Hephaestus (profile), Mar 26th, 2010 @ 3:35pm

      Re:

      Columbia is better quality actually

       

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        Nastybutler77 (profile), Mar 26th, 2010 @ 4:11pm

        Re: Re:

        Columbia is crap. For what you pay, Marmot or Mountain Hardware are much better quality and cost about the same as the equivalent North Face product.

        /$.02

         

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          Hephaestus (profile), Mar 26th, 2010 @ 4:36pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Actually I tend to be rough on sports wear, North Face keeps ripping, ??marmot?? I might have borrowed a jacket by them a couple years back and it leaked when it rained. Columbia just keeps going and going... I guess its a personal preference...

           

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2010 @ 2:36pm

    Dang

    The North Face makes some of the best camping stuff I've ever used.. I guess it's time to stop buying their crap too now..

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2010 @ 3:16pm

    Meanwhile, an unintended consequence of North Face's immoral legal wrangling is that the relationship between father and son is probably stronger than ever! (Now that the lies between them have been flushed out.)

     

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    Johnny Canada, Mar 26th, 2010 @ 3:16pm

    the South Butt Family

    Now that they are known as the South Butt Family, won't they get sued by the creators of "South Park"?

    I for one could get confused :)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2010 @ 3:57pm

    I never have, and certainly will never purchase any 'North Face' douche gear.

    However, I would like to know where to purchase 'South Butt' apparel.

    *google search initiated*

     

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    Tim, Mar 26th, 2010 @ 4:53pm

    Support South Butt

    I will purchasing something from South Butt and sending an email to North Face with a link to this article explaining that I can, in fact, understand the difference between the two names.

    I also understand the tactics, and I won't purchase from thugs.

     

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    another mike (profile), Mar 26th, 2010 @ 5:00pm

    Dear North Face

    Dear North Face,

    I am going to buy a parka at the end of the season. Waiting until stores offload their winter stock is a great way to pick up quality equipment at a good price. This letter is to inform you that it will not be a North Face brand parka. Or any North Face product ever again. Thank you for your kind attention.

    Sincerely,
    Another Mike

     

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    fish, Mar 26th, 2010 @ 5:24pm

    I strongly support only referring to the clothing company in question as "Ass Face" in the future.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2010 @ 5:34pm

    south butts lawyers were obnoxious to start with. they are getting schooled now big time on how a real lawsuit works

     

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      Another AC, Mar 26th, 2010 @ 7:39pm

      @43

      South Butt's(notice proper use of punctuation) lawyers may be obnoxious, but they are presenting themselves as those who appreciate humor. They may or may not get schooled by The North Face's lawyers, but they will show the media, the courts and the nation that corporate bullying is something to be fought.

       

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      BearGriz72 (profile), Mar 26th, 2010 @ 8:24pm

      Re:

      Oh look one of North Farce's lawyers came to visit.
      For future reference please get a clue.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2010 @ 12:45am

      Re:

      Aaaaaaw, are your bosses all pissy?

      Ask them if they'd like me to send them a crying towel.

       

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    JustMe (profile), Mar 29th, 2010 @ 10:11am

    Lost me as a customer

    Hi, I've been a North Face customer for around 30 years and I still have my first NF sleeping bag. However, I've decided that I no longer need to purchase their products.

    I have also filled out a letter of complaint at http://northface.esecurecare.net/cgi-bin/northface.cfg/php/enduser/copy_cvg_inqry_form.php

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2010 @ 1:06pm

    Questions in fact go to the character of the person and that persons integrity. Should TNF decide that the South Butt family is honestly trying to be in the clothing business or are they trying to cheat and steal from the trademark that is legally protected.
    How honest is South Butt about their clothing? Is it the same as TNF stitch for stitch fair labor wages and same quality of fabrics OR is it lower end stuff made in child labor sweatshops and full of cheap fibers/ and yarns and fabrics?
    You can buy a knock off Denali or tee shirt or sweatshirt for much less than South Butt at a gas station.
    So is this about pumping fumes or pumping iron. Is the will of a kid really as honest as his clothing?
    TNF has done it the hard way through 3 bankruptcies and previous owners while trying to assure its customers of the best quality clothing. nobody can say what that price is worth to the consumer. The fact that so many have bought TNF and a kid even admits that it is worth chasing says they climbed fair to get to the top.
    TM's are not BM's..

    Parody of free speech does not over rule laws created for fairness and right doing.

    SouthButt BM's will drag TNF TM"s to the rest room of a gas station if this kind of law breaking is allowed to get through the Courts.
    Who will get the tile work signature phone numbers in those restrooms??
    Lawyers looking for more clients??

     

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      Nastybutler77 (profile), Mar 30th, 2010 @ 2:25pm

      Re:

      It's really amazing that you were able to write so much and say nothing at all. I can't even begin to find the point (if there even is one) in all that babbling, but to address your first remark that TNF's lawyer's questions were designed to establish the lack of character and integrity of the "kid," what difference does that make as far as a trademark dispute is concerned?

      If you are implying that someone who smokes pot has questionable character, then I guess you probably weren't in favor of any of the past three US Presidents, as they've all either admitted to, or tacitly acknowledged they've smoked pot at some point. Does that mean none of them has integrity or character? I'm not saying they do or don't, just that whether or not they do has nothing to do with marijuana.

      Your other arguments are equally irrelevent, or just plain incorrect, to the basis of this trademark case, but I don't have time to waste on launching into more exposition.

       

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      TrademarksProtected (profile), Apr 5th, 2010 @ 11:47am

      Re: TMs vs BMs

      good comment - excellent. I hope people read it and realize that companies SHOULD protect their valuable trademarks.

      Thank you for writing.

      Natalie
      National Trademark Center
      www.trademarksprotected.com

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2010 @ 1:09pm

    okay nasty get to the point of trademark law.

    does the logo look like the north face logo from ten feet away. is the entire survival of a knock off company that makes gas station quality clothing going to survive based on the name without the copied logo thing. and when the face and butt thing are over who will pay twice as much for south butt as thousands of other sweats and tees and fleece offer them for
    in other words the south butt must be able to distinguish itself from the trademark
    and so far they seem anchored to it to sell anything to anyone.
    do you really know what the difference is between the fabrics in north face and south butt...
    where the child labor sewing begins and ends..
    come on nasty are you getting ripped off paying twice as much for the butt as the real ones in any gas station store.
    the kid is laughing at everyone that is foolish enough to pay him more than most for the same stuff.
    as far as pot smoking the real north face was in berkeley man are you stupid or what.. the company was higher than the yosemite based logo tm... it to was a dream of college youth trying to get through school and make a living .
    so why knock it because it got big..
    if the kid was smart he would play ball and build the business not play school boy adolescent to the media..

     

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    longshanks, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 5:53am

    Done with them

    I own quite a bit of Nort Face clothing and I'll continue to use it. However, I will not purchase another thread of it; Patagonia will get my money from here on out.
    Oh, I also eat at McDowell's!

     

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    Drive23, Feb 15th, 2011 @ 1:39pm

    I seriously don't get half the comments on here. Why are people making him out to be a victim. It's not like some highschool bully just picked on some random kid. The kid threw a rock at the biggest kid in school. That doesn't make him a victim, that makes him an idiot.

    "You mess with da panda, you get da chopsticks"

     

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