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Ugg boots - they’re as Australian as Vegemite on Weet-Bix, pokies at the pub and budgie smugglers on Bondi Beach. Except … when they’re not.


While you might think the iconic Aussie footwear couldn’t be anything other than 100 per cent dinky-di, truth is, one of the most famous ugg brands on the market simply isn’t. And that’s about as unAustralian as calling your thongs “flip-flops” and saying no to a beer at a barbie.

 
Most Aussies know that the word ugg is a generic term for the insanely comfortable sheepskin boots plenty of us slouch around the house in. But in the US, it’s a brand - and big business for American-owned Deckers Outdoor Corporation. Deckers has trademarked the word “UGG”, labelled themselves “UGG Official” and launched a number of David and Goliath legal battles with Australian manufacturers over the use of the word.

 
So if you’ve ever bought (or thought about buying) an ‘official’ pair of UGGs, here’s the scoop - they’re not only owned by California-based Deckers, they’re also made in China. And there’s nothing Aussie about that.

 

Uggs’ origins

The exact origin of the ugg boot is much contested. Some say they originated in the Blue Mountains, NSW, in the 1930s. Others say the boot was designed by Aussie surfers in the 1960s to keep their toes nice and toasty after emerging from the surf. According to Deckers, uggs were created by Brian Smith, an Australian surfer who began making the footwear in Santa Monica, California, in 1978.


Regardless of where they came from, uggs really burst onto the fashion scene in 2000 when they were endorsed by Oprah Winfrey as one of her ‘favourite things’. Celebs like Jennifer Aniston and Paris Hilton were often papped wearing them and the shoe quickly became a staple in the casual American wardrobe. But as the boots grew more fashionable and popular, the legal tussles began.

  

The UGG-ly legal battle over uggs

If you’re not up to speed on the UGG-ly legal dispute over Australia’s iconic boots, here’s a rundown: Deckers argues that in the 1990s it bought the American-registered name from Brian Smith fair and square. The company, which has boasted about trademarking “ugg” in more than 130 countries, also argues Aussie companies violate Decker’s intellectual property rights when they sell the footwear in the US.


Australian businesses in the firing line have accused Deckers of misleading customers by using the former brand name ‘UGG Australia’ when their shoes are made in China. They’ve also accused the footwear giant of fraudulently registering the word ugg (originally an abbreviation of “ugly”) in the US when it was already a generic term.


A bit of common sense has prevailed, though. Trademark regulators in Australia have ruled that ugg is a generic term for boots made from sheepskins and fleece. The word can’t be trademarked in Australia, which means anyone is free to sell the fleecy footwear Down Under. But the ruling only applies in Australia, and Deckers still owns the trademark in other countries like the US, China and Japan. In effect, local manufacturers cannot sell boots with the word “ugg” in them to markets outside Australia.

  

Uggs as Australian as ‘Champagne is French’

The boot brouhaha got so messy it was even given airtime in Australia’s parliament.

"This is a battle that is worth fighting,” former Australian Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said in 2016. “The French can protect the use of the word 'champagne', and the Greeks the use of the word 'feta'. So surely Australia can protect the use of the word 'ugg' for Australian small manufacturers." Xenophon also criticised the action from Deckers as a form of “legal bullying”.


Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also threw his, err, boot into the ring on the issue in July 2017. The New York Times reported he asked the Australian Embassy in Washington for further information about the dispute from the US government, and to “reiterate Australia’s view that ‘ugg’ is a generic term”.


Deckers has rebranded from UGG Australia to simply UGG. But that’s little comfort for the Australian businesses who cannot export their own ugg boots, or consumers who think they are buying a genuine Aussie-owned and Aussie-made boot.

  

Support Australian-owned and -made. Why should I care?

There’s no denying we’re a patriotic bunch here in Australia, and many of us like to buy Aussie-owned and -made. In fact, in 2016, Roy Morgan research found the percentage of Australian consumers who are more likely to buy Australian-made products had risen to almost 90 per cent. Why? Buying locally supports local businesses, jobs and the economy. Also, as the products have been made in your own backyard, they don’t have to travel far before landing in your hands (or on your feet in the case of uggs), therefore reducing environmental impacts.

 
When it comes to international visitors to Australia and online shoppers from overseas, buying a pair of locally-made uggs is a priority too. Do a quick search through TripAdvisor’s forums and you’ll find plenty of tourists asking where they can find “genuine” uggs. And you can’t blame them. After all, who wants to come to Australia to buy a Chinese product from a company based in the States?

  

Our Mozzie uggs are the real deal

Just like not putting tomato sauce on everything and not owning a pair of thongs, buying ugg boots that are made overseas is just unAustralian. And that’s why you should check out Everything Australian’s own brand of Mozzie uggs.


Mozzie is a proud member of the Genuine Sheepskin Association Inc and its sheepskin boots are proudly Australian-made. Manufactured in Melbourne, Mozzie ensures the highest standard of production in every aspect. The iconic Mozzie brand’s natural Merino boots keep feet warm in winter and cool in summer (without sweating!) due to the natural wicking property of wool. Mozzies are manufactured from top quality, pure Australian Merino wool, which is strong, dense and made to last. With double-faced sheepskin that provides the highest comfort and style, Mozzies let your feet breathe while keeping them warm and looking great.


Also, the boots are fully machine-washable (just use a pillow case) for your convenience. With the colder weather kicking in across Australia, it’s the perfect time to invest in a pair. You can check out Mozzie’s great range of Aussie-owned and -made uggs here.

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What do you think of the ugg boot brouhaha? Rather your uggs be Aussie-owned and -made? Let us know in the comment section below.

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