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North Face, South Butt settle legal dispute

By The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — The North Face Apparel Corp. has settled its lawsuit against The South Butt, a Missouri teenager's company that marketed clothing with a not-so-subtle logo and tag line that parodied the outdoor clothing giant.

Terms were not disclosed in the settlement agreement entered April 9 in U.S. District Court in St. Louis, but The South Butt was still offering its T-shirts, fleece jackets, backpacks and sweat shirts on its Web site today.

"The matter has been amicably resolved between the parties," Albert Watkins, the normally loquacious attorney for The South Butt, said on April 9. He declined further comment for this story.

A spokeswoman for the attorneys for The North Face said they would not comment.

The South Butt was started two years ago by Jimmy Winkelmann of suburban St. Louis, though he's now a 19-year-old college freshman studying biomedical engineering at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Winkelmann has said he started the business to make money for college.

The company sells products with the tag line, "Never Stop Relaxing," a parody of The North Face line, "Never Stop Exploring." A wavelike pattern and the company name appear near the upper right or left shoulder on jackets and shirts, similar to the logo and placement used by The North Face.

The North Face, a San Leandro, Calif.-based division of VF Corp, sued in December. The lawsuit sought unspecified damages and asked the court to prohibit The South Butt from making, marketing and selling its line of fleeces, T-shirts and shorts.

At issue was the question of parody or piracy. The lawsuit claimed The South Butt marketed apparel that "infringes and dilutes The North Face's famous trademarks and duplicates The North Face's trade dress in its iconic Denali jacket," referring to a popular fleece jacket marketed by the company.

"While defendants may try to legitimize their piracy under the banner of parody, their own conduct belies that claim," the suit said, noting that The South Butt had twice attempted to obtain a U.S. trademark registration.

In a whimsical response Watkins wrote that "the consuming public is well aware of the difference between a face and a butt ... ."

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