UGG was founded in California in 1978 by Australian surfer Brian Smith and Doug Jensen. Smith was living in Santa Monica, California after studying at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.Smith and Jensen first applied to be the United States distributors for the Western Australian sheepskin boot manufacturer, Country Leather. Unhappy with the brand, Smith trademarked UGG. Later, family friends invested $20,000 into the venture and the group set up Ugg Imports. In their first season in business, Ugg Imports sold 28 pairs of boots. Due to other business commitments, in 1979 Jensen handed over his share of the company to Smith. Sales steadily grew and Smith set up Ugg Holdings Inc. and in 1985 registered a US trademark on a rams head logo with the words “Original UGG Boot UGG Australia”. By 1994, 80 percent of UGG’s sales were in southern Orange County, but the company gained international attention after the boots were worn by the U.S. Olympic team in Lillehammer for the 1994 Winter Olympics.

In 1995, Deckers Brands, acquired Smith’s business for $14.6 million and continued to expand it. During the late 1990s, UGG began experiencing double-digit sales growth as Deckers developed the company into an international brand. In 2003, UGG boots were included on Oprah Winfrey’s show as part of “Oprah’s Favorite Things.” Afterwards, the brand received an unprecedented surge in sales. In 2006, UGG opened its first brick and mortar store in New York’s SoHo neighborhood.The company opened its first international store in Japan later that same year.

UGG partnered with designer shoe brand Jimmy Choo in 2009 to launch a capsule collection combining the brands’ styles. The following year, UGG debuted a collection of boots designed in collaboration with Swarovski. The company launched its first men’s advertising campaign in 2011 featuring New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in 2011. The first UGG for Men stand-alone store opened in New York in 2012. UGG reported over $1 billion (U.S) in sales for 2012. UGG products are manufactured in a number of countries, primarily China. Deckers continues to source most of its sheepskin from Australia.Its collection of home goods launched in 2013 and included products such as rugs, blankets, pillows and other home pieces. In June 2015, Ugg has announced a collaboration with Pixar studio. The lifestyle brand launched a capsule collection reflecting Pixar’s newest film “Inside Out.” They have produced many colourful, Disney-themed UGGs, featuring Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and also Tinker Bell.

In popular culture

UGG boots have been a style staple since they first appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s show in her second edition of “Oprah’s Favorite Things” in 2003, in which she purchased over 350 shoes for her staff and audience.The boots gained a large celebrity following and were frequently seen on notable people such as Kate Upton, Blake Lively,Kate Hudson, Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, and Sarah Jessica Parker who also wore them on the HBO series “Sex and the City” as Carrie Bradshaw.This marketing campaign “led to an exponential growth in the brand’s popularity and recognizability.”

In 2013, various Vogue editors wrote about wearing an owning UGG boots following testimonials by fashion figures such as Alexa Chung and André Leon Talley who posted about their UGG boots.

The shoes have also been spotted on celebrities including actor Leonardo DiCaprio and The Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood.

Trademark disputes

In 1971, Shane Steadman registered the trademark UGH-BOOT on the Australian Trade Mark Registry, and obtained an Australian registration for UGH in 1982. These registrations remained valid in Australia until removed for non-use in 2006. Steadman sold his UGH brand boots widely in Australia throughout the 1970s and 1980s. This registration was subsequently sold to Ugg Holdings Inc. in early 1995. In August 1995, Deckers Brands purchased Ugg Holdings, and in 1999 registered Ugg Holdings trademarks, including the UGG AUSTRALIA label (with sun-like device), in Australia. However, attempts by Deckers to stop other traders using the “UGG” mark in Australia led to a decision by IP Australia that “UGG” is a generic term in Australia and New Zealand to which Deckers did not have trade mark rights. Nevertheless, Deckers holds registrations for the UGG trademark in the United States, China and over 130 other countries.

The validity of the UGG trademark outside of Australia has also been challenged, but courts have consistently upheld its validity. In 2004, Deckers filed a case against Koolaburra in the California federal court asserting that their use of “Ug” was trademark infringement.Koolaburra argued that the UGG trademark was invalid as being generic and obtained by fraud. In February 2005, the court ruled for Deckers stating that survey evidence clearly demonstrates that the UGG mark is not generic. There was no evidence that Smith acted with an intent to defraud the Trademark Office, and consumers would likely be confused with the similarity in “appearance, sight and sound” between “Ug” and “UGG” as the parties were marketing in direct competition with identical products. However, the court declined to rule on the validity of Deckers’ Australian trademark registrations in the context of the U.S. case.

Other UGG trademark disputes have occurred with companies including Luda Production Pty and Emu Australia,as well as local manufacturers in countries such as Turkey and China.

In August 2016, the Australian Federal Senator Nick Xenophon called for international protection of the Australian footwear term ugg.

Counterfeiting

Deckers actively enforces its trade mark rights in those countries in which it has succeeded in obtaining trade mark rights to “UGG”. Deckers’ UGG products are inexpensive to make, have a relatively high sale price and are rarely discounted. According to Deckers’ brand-protection unit, in 2009 it took down 2,500 “fake” websites, 20,000 eBay listings and 150,000 other online auction listings with 60,000 pairs of “counterfeit” UGG footwear confiscated by customs agents.

Law enforcement officials in the UK, the U.S. and China have reported seizures of counterfeit UGG brand boots.In 2009, US customs agents confiscated 60,000 pairs of fake UGG boots, and the company took action against 2500 websites that were selling fraudulent products, as well as some 170,000 listings on eBay, Craigslist and similar sites.

The National Arbitration Forum, which has been appointed by ICANN to resolve most Internet domain name disputes, has used Deckers Brands ownership of the UGG trademark in the United States as part of several decisions to direct Internet domains containing UGG to be transferred to Deckers.

Concern for animals

Since UGG boots are one of many clothing products made from animal skin, the production of UGG boots has been the subject of criticism by the animal liberation movement.In the decade beginning in 2000, the group called for the boycott of UGG boots and their replacement with alternatives not made from animal skin.

In 2007, Pamela Anderson, realizing that UGG boots were made of sheepskin, wrote on her website that she does not support the brand any longer. In February 2008, the Princeton Animal Welfare Society staged a campus protest against the fur industry, particularly attacking the sheepskin industry. “Students lay in the newly fallen snow on the Frist Campus Center’s North Front Lawn on Friday afternoon, feigning death, wearing coats covered with fake blood and sporting signs that read, ‘What if you were killed for your coat?’ “