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BACKCOUNTRY BACKS DOWN IN TRADEMARK ROW - Jane Peel, Chief Reporter
Tuesday November 5, 2019 - Email this article to a friend

The online retailer Backcountry.com has apologised for suing companies using the word backcountry in their name. 'We made a mistake' it says.

 




The fulsome apology comes days after a huge backlash against the Utah-based company's actions. 

In just six days, a new Facebook page urging people to boycott the company has attracted more than 15,000 members.

Skiers, snowboarders and other outdoor enthusiasts were furious that Backcountry.com had taken legal action against several small companies and pursued trademark claims against others.

Late on Wednesday 6th November, the Backcountry CEO Jonathan Nielsen apologised for its actions.

In a letter to its customers, reproduced on its website, he acknowledged that the company had got it wrong.

"We made a mistake," he said.

"We truly apologize."

Backcountry has withdrawn its legal action against Marquette Backcountry Skis.

It is also reviewing the way it deals with trademark issues.

"Backcountry has never been interested in owning the word ‘backcountry' or completely preventing anyone else from using it," Neilsen said.

"But we clearly misjudged the impact of our actions."

Nielsen said he recognised that it might take time to win back trust.

"We intend to learn from this and become a better company."

Backcountry dot com apology letterThe apology in full

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since issuing that apology the company has gone further.

It is taking a number of steps to win back its reputation.

They include working with the man whose company Backcountry was in the process of suiing.

Read the latest story in The Colorado Sun which has an interview with the Jonathan Nielsen.

The Park-City based e-commerce giant, which sells ski and outdoor clothing and kit, has taken legal action in the USA against several organisations with the word backcountry in their names.

Records at the US Patent and Trademark Office reveal that Backcountry.com, which trades as AlpineTrek.co.uk in Europe, has filed tens of applications for trademark protection.

They date back to July 2016.

Among the companies named in the trademark applications are Backcountry Babes - a long-established California-based company offering backcountry ski courses for women.

Then there is  Backcountry Research of Montana, which designs and sells mountain bike accessories.

According to Jason Blevin, the reporter on The Colorado Sun who broke the story, some lawsuits have already resulted in settlements.

They have forced smaller firms to change their names.

Jason BlevinsJason Blevins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"My feeling is that nobody should have the right to the term ‘backcountry.' It's like trying to trademark ‘road' or ‘beach' or ‘mountain," Jordan Phillips, whose Backcountry Denim jeans company has been sued, told Blevins.

The lawsuits have not gone down well with a group of skiers, snowboarders and outdoor enthusiasts, who have joined a growing social media backlash.

On 1st November, they set up a Facebook page, Boycott BackcountryDOTcom.

Four days later the group had 5,000 members with the aim of hitting 10,000 by the end of the week.

They exceeded that a few days later, reaching 14,000.

"This group was created to draw attention to Backcountry.com's decision to trademark the word backcountry and sue anyone who uses it in their product name," the group says.

"Trademarking backcountry is like trademarking camping or mountains. They are abusing the standards of the outdoor community.

"Please join and voice your support to send a message to outdoor companies that think they can run over people and abusively use lawyers to ruin people's livelihood.

"Join and share. Would be a great moral victory to bring them down and show that the outdoor consumer won't tolerate corporate bullies."

Backcountry.comThe Backcountry.com website - the target of a social media campaign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The campaign quickly grew traction.

Just days after it was launched people were widely sharing the message across their social media platforms.

One comment on Boycott BackcountryDOTcom's Facebook says: "I've spent over 5k with them over the past 3 years or so. Any future business will go to their direct competitors".

In addition, a Go Fund Me page was set up to help one small business, Marquette Backcountry Skis.

It was being sued by Backcountry.com in what is described as a ‘David vs Goliath' case which could set a precedent.

The aim was to raise $200,000 to help pay Marquette Backcountry Skis' legal costs and support other small businesses that are sued.

Now, Backcountry.com has withdrawn its case against Marquette.

Campaign messageCampaign message

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It remains to be seen how much commercial damage has been done by Backcountry's actions.

The company will hope that its apology and review of its actions will be enough to prevent its customers deserting it for other retailers.

However, the initial signs are not good.

There's been overwhelming support to continue the boycott on the Boycott BackcountryDOTcom Facebook page.

Here are some of the hundreds of comments responding to the apology:

  • "They need to make reparations to those that they harmed at a minimum or I will boycott them for life."
  • "It doesn't go far enough. Drop all cases and commit to not pursue anyone else for using the word 'backcountry'."
  • "They're not apologizing for the act, they're apologizing for the backlash it caused."
  • "Three weeks from Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I believe that's the sole purpose for the letter."
  • "Will not buy from Backcountry.com ever again. This company is a greedy inhumane organization that only went after the little guy because they know they could away with it. Being a small business owner myself this boils my blood."
  • "I've already deleted my account, and will continue to steer all of my friends away from you until you completely reverse course, pay full restitution to all the businesses you have wrongfully sued, and relinquish your trademark on 'backcountry'."

There was also criticism of the company for not putting the apology letter in the public domain.

It is not on the front page of its website and can only be accessed if you know the link.

Nor has it been published on its social media channels.

Read Jason Blevin's original story in The Colorado Sun.

For the Spirit of the Mountains - PlanetSKI: Number One for ski news

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