Until last year, Missouri teenager Jimmy Winkelmann wasn’t planning on being an entrepreneur. But after becoming “frustrated with his classmates’ sheep-like following” of the popular North Face sports clothing, he finally decided to generate his own response.
The result was a line of parody sports apparel called “South Butt.” The idea caught on—but thanks to the popularity of his website offerings, Winkelmann might face a lawsuit for trademark infringement, according to ABC TV News.
It all started when a lawyer for North Face contacted Winkelmann, saying that the similarity of the two logos might cause some confusion among consumers that could “dilute or tarnish the distinctive quality” of the North Face marks. They’re asking Winkelmann to close his online store and drop his trademark application for “South Butt LLC.”
However, the young CEO has no intention of shutting down his business, despite the “cease and desist” request from North Face lawyers. Winkelmann says “South Butt LLC” brought in a total of $4,000 last year, and poses no threat to North Face.
South Butt’s CEO does admit that the logos are similar: the North Face logo “features a half dome with three ridges.” The South Butt logo features an upside-down dome “with two ridges that Winkelmann confirmed are meant to infer butt cheeks.”
The ruckus has caused South Butt’s legal team—consisting of a lawyer friend of Jimmy’s dad—to spring into action, saying that Winkelmann’s parody is actually flattery for North Face, and should be regarded as such.
In fact, South Butt lawyer Jack Watkins said that his client is pursuing the American dream, and that its CEO is “not exactly the kind of CEO that inspires such action—After all, he’s 18 and looks 12.”
Deborah Lambert writes the Squeaky Chalk column for Accuracy in Academia.