Retailers face jandal scandal

Last updated 05:00 23/01/2014
Lastseason director Jeremy Mould
Peter Drury/Fairfax NZ
FOOTWEAR FIASCO: director Jeremy Mould has been told to stop calling flip-flops ‘‘jandals’’.

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Call them "flip-flops" or "thongs" and you might be hung, drawn and quartered by your Kiwi peers, but it seems you can't legally call the quintessential Kiwi footwear "jandals" either., New Zealand's biggest online discount apparel store, has been selling a surplus supply of flip-flops online for the past year, but yesterday morning received a letter saying they were breaching a trademark by calling them jandals.

The company's Hamilton-based directors, Chris Atkins and Jeremy Mould, have no idea how to handle the jandal scandal.

"We figured, like most Kiwis would, that jandals was just a commonly used word, like t-shirt," Atkins said.

"But apparently not."

The letter, sent by Paul Morgan of law firm Carlile Dowling acting on behalf of Sandford Industries Ltd, stated that the company must stop using the term immediately or face legal action.

Mould said he called Morgan to negotiate, but he wasn't having a bar of it.

"We asked if we could pay them to use the word and he just said: No, you're not to use it. They wouldn't give us any direction as to what to do."

Any further inquiries were met with a "get your lawyer to talk to my lawyer" approach.

"It's kind of like big guys killing a bit of Kiwi fun, because that's what jandals are associated with - Kiwi summer fun. The big corporates are coming in and stomping on all the fun, they're like the jandal Grinch," Atkins said.

They did not know what the penalty might be for failing to comply with the lawyer's instructions. "They might slap me with their jandal."

The owner of the trademark for the word "Jandal" is Baron Sandford, the director of Sandford Industries.

When the Waikato Times asked how many other companies he had sent letters to, Sandford refused to say, but disclosed that he had letters that dated back to the time he bought the trademark from Skellerup in 1995. Past offenders included The Warehouse and Havaianas, he said.

Sandford said when his sales staff spotted an infringement, he asked his lawyers to send a letter asking the offenders nicely to stop or they would face court action.

Sandford quoted the Trade Marks Act 2002 and said he was simply enforcing his right to exclusively use the term "Jandal".

"There is nothing more simple than the law," he said.

The invention and trademarking of the jandal have been a hotly contested battle in the past.

Many people believe the late Morris Yock, who patented the famous design in 1957, invented the jandal.

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But in 2009 Taranaki woman Mary Deken and her brother Des Cowie said the kudos should go to their late father, John Cowie.

"Morris Yock was nothing more than an importer," Cowie said. "Dad always claimed the name jandal was his and was a shortened version of Japanese sandal."

Sandford suggested that Mould and Atkins use the term flip-flop or thong to advertise their products.

But the men from said this might label them as un-Kiwi.

"Anything other than jandal, everyone will think that we're not Kiwis and that's our point of difference. We are Kiwis and we are in New Zealand."

Mould said they are unsure what to do about the flip-flop fiasco, but are thinking of running a Facebook competition to help them rename the Kiwi icon.

Some people had offered name suggestions already, including "slappies", "chandals", "not jandals" or a misspelling of the word such as "jandalz".

Another recent trademark battle in Waikato involved Hamilton inventor Hayden Crowther and his product, the driPhone.

Apple lost its bid to prevent him from selling waterproof smartphone cases under the driPhone brand name.

The Intellectual Property Office decided to allow Crowther a trademark for the name despite a formal challenge from the United States technology giant, which argued that the name could be confused with its iPhone brand. Fairfax NZ

- Fairfax Media

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