Butt Face Apparel Company Faces Contempt Charges
The Butt Face apparel company was forced to shut its doors in August after the North Face dragged them into court for being in contempt of a settlement between the outdoor gear giant and a previous incarnation of Butt Face called South Butt.
South Butt was a spoof company started by Missouri teenager Jimmy Winkelmann, Jr. in 2007 to poke fun at the slightly more established North Face brand. South Butt’s logo featured the North Face insignia turned over to resemble a rear end, and they claimed the slogan, “Never stop relaxing,” a takeoff of North Face’s “Never stop exploring.”
The North Face was not pleased about the unauthorized take off of its brand and sued South Butt for trademark infringement. They settled out of court in 2010, but that wasn’t the end of the story. Winkelmann apparently couldn’t resist another good poke at the corporate giant and launched the Butt Face brand, with the slogan, “Never stop smiling!”
The North Face was not smiling, and they dragged Winkelmann back to court. He eventually acquiesced and shut down Butt Face, but not before filing a 23-page memo to the court opposing the contempt motion. Among the arguments made in the memo:
- Parody was not disqualified as a defense in trademark cases, and “Judge Mummert adroitly noted this distinction in the ‘Buttwiper’ case cited by Plaintiff.”
- Lardasche had been deemed an acceptable parody of Jordashe jeans. “Obviously, the ‘lardasch’ mark was a pun referencing people with fat butts or ‘lard asses.'”
- The Butt Face logo is dissimilar to the North Face logo. “The ‘butt face’ design portion of the Butt Face logo is comprised of an altered half of the smiley face popularized in the 1970s, which, viewed differently, resembles a stylized rendering of the cheeks found on either side laterally of that portion of the human anatomy generally associated with bowel evacuation.”
During previous litigation, Winkelman had added a disclaimer to the South Butt website that read, “We are not in any fashion related to nor do we want to be confused with The North Face Apparel Corp. or its products sold under “The North Face” brand. If you are unable to discern the difference between a face and a butt, we encourage you to buy North Face products.”
Despite the creative legal wranglings, Butt Face decided to follow in the footsteps of its older brother South Butt and cease and desist. Winkelmann, meanwhile, used the money he earned off all the publicity to send himself to medical school.
Do you think the “Butt Face” brand constituted trademark infringement? Share your opinion in the comments below.