Senate debates

Wednesday, 24 November 2021


Australian Leather

1:42 pm

Photo of Stirling GriffStirling Griff (SA, Centre Alliance) Share this | | Hansard source

RIFF () (): I was very pleased when the Australian government recently threw its weight behind protecting generic Australian names that could be registered by US corporations. Australian Leather is a manufacturer who sold a dozen ugg boots to American buyers. In doing so, they violated a US trademark owned by American conglomerate Deckers. Incredibly, Deckers own the rights to the word 'ugg' and claim that it's theirs to use exclusively around the world. For selling just a dozen uggs, the Australian Leather company is facing millions of dollars in penalties and legal fees. The fight continues, and it is now headed to the US Supreme Court. I'm very proud to say that it is now headed there with the backing of the Australian government.

The case turns on a legal anomaly. In the US, you cannot trademark generic terms in a foreign language, but you can trademark generic English terms. Go figure! This is an inconsistency, but it also cuts against the whole rationale for trademarks. They exist to prevent confusion between real brands and imitators. They should not exist to give conglomerates an exclusive right to use common words and prevent competitors from being able to describe their products. This is the very definition of unfair competition.

It's great that government understands why this matters to Australian businesses with a quality product that some will also hope to export. Nobody should be able to stand in the way of that at all. So it's absolutely appropriate the Australian government fight to protect that right, and I sincerely thank the Attorney-General for doing so.