If you haven't heard by now, I'll fill you in. Outdoor apparel manufacturing giant the North Face is suing a college kid named Jimmy Winkleman (yes, he really does go by Jimmy) for creating his own line of outdoorsy-type apparel and calling it "South Butt."1 I kid you not. Arguably Mr. Winkleman could have chosen a better name for his apparel, even if his intention was to "poke fun" at the norm.
Now apparently North Face is suing for dilution and infringemenet and saying not nice things about North Face.2 I find the whole thing ridiculous on both sides. First, apparently Mr. Winklemann in response to a cease and desist promptly offered to stop--for a $1 million buyout.3 Second, instead of negotiating or some other extra-judicial tactic, North Face launched a shock and awe trademark offensive.4 Granted, I'm not sure what other remedies there are, but suing the pants off of a college student (sound familiar?) never seems to be a popular idea.
Undoubtedly there is an issue with dilution here, possibly infringement and the North Face has a more than colorable claim. The real issue is something the RIAA ran into a few years ago, are you willing to get some egg on your face to protect your rights in a "small potatoes" setting? The corporate answer is yes, but the average joe's answer is probably no.
1: The South Butt, http://www.thesouthbutt.com (last visited Dec. 24, 2009).
2: Debra Cassens Weiss, North Face Sues The South Butt for Trademark Infringement, ABA Journal, available at http://www.abajournal.com/weekly/article/the_north_face_sues_the_south_butt_for_trademark_infringement.
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