The North Face vs. The South Butt: Entrepreneurial Teen Undaunted by Lawsuit Threat

In his Sept. 10 letter to LaVine, Waktins, with Winkelmann's blessing, gave the company the opportunity to purchase The South Butt for $1 million, an offer that has since been withdrawn because of The North Face's lack of action.

He also suggested a non-binding mediation between the two companies and noted that his client has nothing to lose by "vigorously pursuing the American dream."

Winkelmann said his parents "are loving it."

"They're supporting me through it all," he said. "We really don't know what The North Face is going to do now."

Winkelmann said the idea for The South Butt was born a few years ago when he and his high school pals were poking fun at the kids at their private high school who satisfied their need to belong by buying the exact same jackets and vests.

"People thought it was so cool to wear The North Face fleeces," he said. "Everybody had to have them."

The term "South Butt" started as a joke, he said, and "then it just, like, escalated."

Winkelmann turned to his uncle, who owned a business printing marketing items like T-shirts and pens, for help in manufacturing the first South Butt T-shirts. He said the entire company was founded not to rip-off The North Face, but to get people thinking about the alternatives.

He started with an online business and then began selling them at Ladue Pharmacy in St. Louis. Ladue's owner now acts as Winkelmann's sales manager and makes a small salary based on commission.

Seeing the burgeoning company as a way to help his parents -- who had experienced some financial hardship in the weakened economy -- pay for his college tuition, Winkelmann went a step farther.

In 2007, The South Butt was incorporated with the state of Missouri, with the help of Winkelmann's stockbroker father.

Ire From The North Face Helps The South Butt Profit

Winkelmann said he turned a profit of about $4,000 the first year, most of which went back into inventory. In the past year, he estimated that he has pocketed about $2,000, which has gone toward his education at the University of Missouri, where he is studying biomedical engineering with a business minor.

The added attention The North Face letter has brought to The South Butt has only served to bolster Winkelmann's profits.

"I don't think I was really a threat to them," Winkelmann said, before reconsidering. "Now, I'll be a threat, maybe."

He estimated selling up to 200 items in the past couple years, but now he has sold that much -- if not more -- in the past day or so. He's now rushing to fill back orders and get new inventory manufactured.

The South Butt includes T-shirts, ladies' track shorts, both $19.99 each, and fleeces, which retail for $75.29.

Although some major companies have backed down with the mere threat of a lawsuit, Winkelmann said he will not be one of them.

If anything, Watkins said, further legal action by The North Face will only serve to "steel my client's resolve to stand up and fight."

While trademark infringement is a serious concern for major corporations, the giants don't always prevail in court.

Earlier this month, McDonald's lost its trademark infringement case against McCurry, a popular Malaysian fast food restaurant.

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 8712101. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 8712101. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 8712101. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 8712101.
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...