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Originally published Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 12:09 AM

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North Face dislikes being Butt of a joke

International apparel maker The North Face filed a federal lawsuit in St. Louis late last week alleging trademark infringement by The South Butt, a Ladue, Mo.-based company started by a teenager making fun of The North Face name.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The North Face has made good on its threat to sue The South Butt.

The international apparel maker filed a federal lawsuit in St. Louis late last week alleging trademark infringement by The South Butt, a Ladue, Mo.-based company started by a teenager making fun of The North Face name.

For now, The South Butt does not appear to be backing down.

"We embrace the litigation," said St. Louis attorney Al Watkins, who represents The South Butt.

This long-simmering dispute between the two companies first made a splash two months ago with an attorney for The North Face sending a letter to The South Butt demanding it stop selling its T-shirts, fleeces and shorts. The South Butt refused — and then used the letter to generate priceless publicity.

Sales spiked, according to Watkins. And Watkins now hopes this lawsuit will only goose sales some more.

The South Butt was started in 2007 by Jimmy Winkelmann, now 18 and attending the University of Missouri Columbia. He said he saw it as a way to spoof a status symbol crowding the hallways of his school, Chaminade College Prep.

The clothing can be purchased online and in Ladue.

Winkelmann lets others run the clothing line while he is at college.

"While defendants may try to legitimize their piracy under the banner of parody, their own conduct belies that claim," the lawsuit says, noting that Winkelmann offered to sell his company to The North Face for $1 million. The offer was rescinded by Winkelmann as The South Butt grew. Watkins, The South Butt attorney, acknowledged the offer to sell.

Watkins said that no consumer is confusing The South Butt with The North Face. He compared it to the Lacoste crocodile on polo shirts and other lines of clothing with tigers or turtles stitched on the breast.

"Nobody buys a turtle shirt and thinks they're getting a Lacoste," he said.

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