The Ugg Boot War

The Ugg Boot War

The Ugg Boot War

In 1971 a local surf champion decided to capitalize on the growing popularity of ugg boots among surfers in Australia. He began selling ugg boots, and registered the name “Ugg”.

In 1979 a visitor from the US went home to New York with a few pairs of ugg boots in his backpack, and set up a US company called Ugg Holdings Inc. He also registered the Ugg trademark in 25 countries, including Australia. In 1995 he sold out to another US company called Deckers Outdoor Corporation.

Years later, in an astounding move, Deckers instigated legal action against more than 20 Australian companies, demanding they stop using the trademarked name “Ugg” to describe their boots!

As one business owner pointed out “it’s like saying you can’t call a car a car.” After all, the word “ugg” is short for ‘ugly', and dates back to the 1920’s when shearers used to wrap sheepskin around their feet to keep warm in the sheds. Also pilots and navigators in open cockpit aircraft during WW1 wore "Fug" boots being knee high sheepskin boots. In fact the humble ugg boot, now a popular fashion item, was traditionally considered dowdy.


Outraged by this attempt to monopolise the international market, Australian manufacturers banded together to form the Australian Sheepskin Association, lead by UGGS-N-RUGS in Western Australia and Mortels Sheepskin Factory in NSW. Together action was taken to protect Australia manufacturers' rights to the word UGG, UG and UGH and the trademarks were deregistered in Australia.

On 16th January 2006, the Trademarks Office handed down their decision that the evidence was "overwhelming" that the terms "ugg boots", "ug boots" and "ugh boots" were generic terms and could be used by anyone in Australia to refer to sheepskin boots, and that the trademark "ugh-boots" and "ugh" be removed from the Register.

This win has been a major boost for the small business community, and through determination and community support numerous jobs have been saved. We weren’t just going to lie down and let them put us out of business. Of course none of this came cheap, but we’re just glad we won this small part of the ‘uggly’ battle.

"Ugg", whilst always have been considered and recognised as a generic term to describe footwear made from sheepskin, is still registered as a Trademark, and therefore a brand, by Deckers Outdoor Corporation, in most countries in the world except Australia. Australian manufacturers and retailers will continue to call their ugg boots by the rightful name being the product that they are and the product that the name represents.

Mortels Sheepskin Factory are founding members of the Australian Sheepskin Association.

Mortels, since 1958.
Proudly Australian owned, grown and made ... Naturally!

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