COLUMBIA — When MU freshman Jimmy Winkelmann, 18, was a sophomore at Chaminade College Preparatory School in St. Louis, he thought it would be funny to mock his classmates who wore brand names, such as The North Face. So he created his own clothing with a logo that read “The South Butt.”
"At all the grade schools and high schools The North Face fleeces were becoming really popular, and everyone was wearing them,” Winkelmann said. “They weren’t going to climb mountains or anything like that so I came up with the idea just to like mock all those people and a lot of people thought it was really funny.”
The joke grew into a business, but Winkelmann received a letter in August from The North Face claiming that it was infringing on The North Face logo's copyright.
The company asked Winkelmann to stop all production and manufacturing, and to remove The South Butt Web site and YouTube video. If The South Butt doesn’t comply, The North Face claims it will take further legal action.
Winkelmann’s lawyer, Albert Watkins, contacted The North Face and said The South Butt would not comply with the requests.
“The lawsuit that they are threatening is meritless," Watkins said.
Winkelmann said The South Butt was not created with the intention of stealing The North Face’s idea.
“It's just a business based off of not wearing name brands just to look cool,” Winkelmann said. “It’s just like kind of mocking all that whole type of thinking.”
The North Face hasn’t filed a lawsuit, but The South Butt is waiting for it to make the next move.
"Going after an 18-year old from the heartland of America was not prudent from a business standpoint," Watkins said. “We remain hopeful that they will backpedal.”
Watkins said there was an initial offer to sell The South Butt to The North Face for $1 million, but that has since been taken off the table. The South Butt is open to renegotiating a settlement with The North Face.
Meanwhile, Winkelmann is soaking up his 15 minutes of fame; he has been a subject of national and local news.
“Like the other day I walked into Walmart and I was like, 'Oh, have you heard about The South Butt?' " Winkelmann said. "And she was like, 'Yeah, you’re on the front page of this paper.' "
The news coverage has not only brought a few more phone calls to Winkelmann’s home, it has also helped tremendously with increasing The South Butt product sales.
Winkelmann said that without this legal battle business would have been slow as it had been in the past, making only a couple thousand dollars a year. Since the conflict began, The South Butt's sales have soared.
“They’ve just gone through the roof," he said. "Right now it's actually even hard for me to get the clothes because we're sold out completely. Like everything."
The South Butt is expecting to hear from The North Face this week.