Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Beach Apparel Outfit's Popularity Breeds Copycats, Satire; 'INFRINGE' BENEFITS Salt Life Is on the Lookout for Knockoffs, but Enjoys Witty Imitators, Too

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Beach Apparel Outfit's Popularity Breeds Copycats, Satire; 'INFRINGE' BENEFITS Salt Life Is on the Lookout for Knockoffs, but Enjoys Witty Imitators, Too

Article excerpt

Byline: KATE HOWARD

If imitation is indeed a form of flattery, then consider Salt Life duly flattered - and lawyered up.

The Jacksonville Beach startup has gone mainstream, with 2,000 stores nationwide selling its ocean-inspired clothing line and car decals.

With that success comes detractors - and copyright infringers.

It's the ubiquitous decals - "Salt Life" with hibiscus flowers, skulls, surfboards and other beach paraphernalia - that have drawn the most popularity and ire. The six-year-old apparel company now has two full-time employees who do nothing but look for online auction users selling knockoffs, managing partner Richard Thompson said.

"We've brought legal action at least 100 times," he said. "We have policemen going into mall kiosks around the country. There are even churches popping up calling themselves Salt Life, and it's hard to tell them they can't do it."

That tattoo-style lettering is now a trademarked font. The company also owns the term "Salt Life." And its lawyers say they have to vigorously defend what's theirs from copycats.

Take a look around any parking lot in the Jacksonville area, though, and you'll see the spinoffs.

The new companies celebrate other popular pastimes: Hunt Life for outdoorsmen; Swamp Life for Florida Gators fans; even Malt Life, for microbrew buffs.

Swamp Life co-owner Scott Dunn said his stickers ran into some initial resistance - with the University of Florida, not Salt Life. The company has since worked out a deal to sell its decals and T-shirts with official Gators art and the blessing of the powers that be.

Dunn said his product is a nod to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, better known as The Swamp.

"We have lots of friends that are big-time Gators fans, and we do a lot of tailgating and football games," he said. …

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