An entrepreneurial college student created what he claims is a parody of the popular The North Face brand called The South Butt.
Now he's getting an extracurricular education in corporate hardball. The huge apparel maker whose identity the young man mocks has sued the 18-year old for what it claims is trademark infringement.
Jimmy Winkelmann, a University of Missouri at Columbia freshman, created his brand which clearly borrows heavily from the apparel giant as a send up of all the people who mindlessly wear North Face gear because everyone else they know wears it.
So South Butt has a logo that resembles North Face's, except flipped upside down. It sells tee shirts and a jacket. And it has twisted the North Face marketing slogan of "Never stop exploring" into "Never stop relaxing."
Winkelmann reported on the lawsuit on his website Monday:
News came Friday afternoon that The North Face has decided to take us to court! Now, more than ever, we need your support as we prepare for the upcoming events. We're stocked up and ready for the Holiday rush that is about to take place because of this news — please get your Christmas orders in ASAP !
Because of this, we've launched a new Facebook app that allows you see the difference between a face and a butt. It's a ton of fun and can be a bit addicting! Here is the link: The South Butt Challenge on Facebook.
We're up against a $7 billion dollar powerhouse (The North Face, owned by VF Corporation), but we feel confident with our idea and our friends, family, and supporters!
Winkelmann, who clearly has an impish sense of humor, also has a press release with a line you don't usually see in a company's press release:
Sample Media Kits, Including Product Samples, Available Upon E-Mail Request to email@example.com [Subject to Jimmy's Mom's Availability to Package Same]
The Associated Press reports that North Face had no comment and its law firm didn't return phone calls.
While Winkelmann is drawing some expressions of support on his website, not all the commenters on his site side with him.
A commenter named KEH, wrote (with misspellings):
sorry, I am usually for the little guy and have found some of these lawsuites stupid. Heard about this on the radio.
I have to agree with The North Face.. you are leveraging their creative work and image with some humor. But you are not a parody, you are a competator in thier industry.