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Anyone following the Backcountry.com legal news?
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Updated 4 days ago
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marzNC - DCSki Supporter
9 days ago

A small ski maker in Michigan is at the center of the news related to what Backcountry.com is donig in an attempt to protect it’s trademark on the word “Backcountry.”  Apparently the suits against small companies started a while ago.  But Marquette Backcountry Ski refused to back down this fall.  Jason Blevins reported on the story on Oct. 31, which is getting wide notice.

https://www.crainsdetroit.com/law/online-retail-giant-sues-small-michigan-ski-maker-which-promises-big-fight

https://coloradosun.com/2019/10/31/backcountry-com-sues-anyone-who-uses-its-namesake-is-it-bullying-or-just-business/

https://coloradosun.com/2019/11/05/backcountry-com-trademark-lawsuits-boycotts-backlash/

Denis - DCSki Supporter
8 days ago

Looks like bullying to me.  Also a good example of why lawyers have a bad name.  There is an easy way out of this mess IMHO.  It’s just a matter of grammar.  Backcountry can be a noun or an adjective.  If an adjective there is no infringement.  Otherwise let’s sue every author and publisher of every book ever written.

i will buy no more from backcountry.com.

I have friends who swear by Marquette skis as the tool of choice for pre-season low snow conditions.  Here’s why,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkVwagPaVf4 

 

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
8 days ago

A GoFundMe campaign started a few days ago to help Marquette with legal fees is gaining traction.  Almost 150 donors so far, mostly $5-20.

The company that owns Backcountry.com now also owns other companies.  TSG bought out Backcountry.com in 2015.  The then CEO resigned by the end of the year.  Backcountry also includes Competitive Cyclist, MotoSport, Bergfreunde, Steep&Cheap and Whiskey Militia.

http://www.tsgconsumer.com/news/tsg-consumer-partners-acquires-backcountry

The co-founder of Backcountry.com, Jim Bresee, died in June 2019.

https://www.snewsnet.com/people/backcountry-founder-john-bresee-obituary

” …

Bresee was always looking to innovate and create. Throughout his life he wore many hats: editor of Powder Magazine, stock trader, entrepreneur, skier, friend, and more. While paying his dues for a pass to Snowbird as a dishwasher, he and a few friends started a free ski-bum magazine for the surrounding area. It wasn’t long after that Bresee began to discover his real passion for avalanche gear, and Backcountry was born in 1996.

…”

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
8 days ago

Backlash has had quick impact.  Suit against Marquette will be dropped.  Following article includes history of the company and the statement release by the CEO today.

https://www.snewsnet.com/gear/backcountry-ceo-breaks-silence-over-trademark-blowup

Statement by Backcountry CEO, Jonathan Nielsen, released on 11/6/19:

Nielsen’s letter in full: We have heard your feedback and concerns, and understand we fumbled in how we pursued trademark claims recently. We made a mistake.

In an attempt to protect the brand we have been building for nearly 25 years, we took certain actions that we now recognize were not consistent with our values, and we truly apologize.

It’s important to note that we tried to resolve these trademark situations amicably and respectfully, and we only took legal action as a last resort. That said, we know we mishandled this, and we are withdrawing the Marquette Backcountry action. We will also reexamine our broader approach to trademarks to ensure we are treating others in a way that is consistent with the culture and values envisioned by our founders and embraced by our community.

We only want what’s best for the whole community and we want every person and business in it to thrive. Backcountry has never been interested in owning the word “backcountry” or completely preventing anyone else from using it. But we clearly misjudged the impact of our actions.

We understand that this step we’ve taken may not be enough for some of you. The hope is that we can ultimately win back your trust, even if it takes time. We are grateful to be a part of your lives, providing you with great gear for your outdoor adventures, and all we want is to go back to doing what we do best. We intend to learn from this and become a better company.

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
7 days ago

A good 11/7/19 editorial that puts the trademark protection efforts by Backcountry.com into perspective.

The Backcountry.com debacle isn’t really about trademarks

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
6 days ago

Very fast moving story … the law firm has been fired.  The owner of Marquette Backcountry Ski is now going to work with Backcountry.com as an advisor.

Nov. 8, 2019, Gear Junkie
Backcountry Fires Law Firm, Drops All Lawsuits, Begins Rebuilding Relationships

” …

Additionally, Nielsen [Backcountry.com CEO] confirmed Backcountry had dropped its “only outstanding litigation.” That case, which had become the most visible among numerous lawsuits Backcountry had levied, rallied many to the defense of David Ollila, founder of Marquette Backcountry Ski.

And, Nielsen said, as part of its effort to rebuild its reputation, the Utah-based online retailer will bring Marquette Backcountry Ski onto its platform and will partner with Ollila in an advisory role to help plan out Backcountry’s next steps.

“We have more in common than not, and we’re both members of the outdoor community for a while,” Nielsen said of Ollila. “And we decided to form a partnership moving forward.”

…”

Denis - DCSki Supporter
6 days ago

marzNC wrote:

Very fast moving story … the law firm has been fired.  The owner of Marquette Backcountry Ski is now going to work with Backcountry.com as an advisor.

Nov. 8, 2019, Gear Junkie
Backcountry Fires Law Firm, Drops All Lawsuits, Begins Rebuilding Relationships

” …

Additionally, Nielsen [Backcountry.com CEO] confirmed Backcountry had dropped its “only outstanding litigation.” That case, which had become the most visible among numerous lawsuits Backcountry had levied, rallied many to the defense of David Ollila, founder of Marquette Backcountry Ski.

And, Nielsen said, as part of its effort to rebuild its reputation, the Utah-based online retailer will bring Marquette Backcountry Ski onto its platform and will partner with Ollila in an advisory role to help plan out Backcountry’s next steps.

“We have more in common than not, and we’re both members of the outdoor community for a while,” Nielsen said of Ollila. “And we decided to form a partnership moving forward.”

…”

Fast moving indeed; it’s enough to make your head spin.

The modern outdoor industry is big business, but it got that way through the collective efforts of many small start-ups founded by people following a dream.  There was a strong sense of community with others doing the same thing.

This, from one of your cited links,

“Backcountry.com was much the same way, started by ski bums in Park City. This is the industry people want to believe in — one run by people like you, a community of outdoor enthusiasts doing right by each other and the community. So when we read about Backcountry “attacking the little guys”, it feels like a betrayal of what we believe the industry stands for.”

and i would add a betrayal by one of our own.  It’s an emotion, a sentiment, and it appears that getting crosswise with it exacted a steep price.

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
6 days ago

No matter what the size of the company, it’s still led by individuals.  I did a quick look at the history of who has been CEO at Backcountry.com .  It may have started small, but the co-founders had big dreams.

The CEO of Backcountry.com, Jonathon Nielsen, has been with the company since 2010.  He became CEO in 2015 after the CEO resigned soon after the sale by Liberty to TSG.  So he has history and knowledge of how things were done before 2017, which seems to be when the efforts to expand the trademark coverage began.  Having had the experience of a company going from a start up (40 people) to a publicly held corporation (17,000 people) in under 10 years, I have to wonder how much Nielsen was personally paying attention to what the law firm was doing.  Especially towards small businesses like a coffee seller.  I had a pretty good sense of what my company’s CEO and founder knew and didn’t during the expansion years as senior execs came and went.

Liberty bought a majority interest in Backcountry.com in 2007.  That’s when the first trademark was set up.  A co-founder, Jim Holland, was CEO back then and had grand plans.  Liberty owns QVC.  This article is from 2017, which is when the push to protect the expanded trademark started.

https://www.snewsnet.com/news/backcountrycom-sale-was-planned-from-the-beginning

Jill Layfield was CEO from 2011 to 2015.  She joined the company in 2004 and was COO when she became CEO.  She left with little explanation.

https://www.snewsnet.com/news/jill-layfield-to-become-ceo-of-backcountrycom

The other co-founder John Bresee died a few months ago.  Jason Blevins mentioned that in his Oct. 31 article that went viral and started the general outrage, which led to a complete reversal of the trademark protection effort.

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
6 days ago

A little background from April 2019 about what the current CEO, Jonathan Neilsen, was trying to do in taking the company down the path of having “house brand” products.  Don’t think 2019 is ending up the way he envisioned it.

https://www.snewsnet.com/people/interview-jonathan-nielsen-backcountry-ceo

” …

On what’s next for Backcountry: “The backcountry brand is here to stay. We had a small launch in 2018 and we’re taking a giant step forward in 2019. I think you’ll see continual large steps forward. Our goal is to become a major outdoor brand on the product side and continue to do what we’ve always done on the retail side and lean in to our Gearhead program.””

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
4 days ago

Pretty much unrelated to the recent reason Backountry.com has been in the headlines, but one writer decided to re-publish a profile of the co-founder who died in 2019 at age 53.  Jim Holland was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2013.  That was two years before the sale to Liberty.  The original interview seems to be from late 2018 or early 2019.

https://www.vnews.com/Olympian-Jim-Holland-Faces-Toughest-Battle-Yet-29993159

” …

In the company’s early years, Holland could be found “dumpster-diving at grocery stores to find cardboard boxes to repackage skiing and rock-climbing equipment that he’d bought from manufacturers so he could turn around and send them to customers,” Forbes.com wrote in a 2006 profile of Holland and Bresee.

“While Bresee, president, dreamed big, Holland, chief executive, kept a fierce grip on costs,” Forbes.com wrote. “A popular saying among employees: ‘If John were running the company alone, we’d be bankrupt; if Jim ran things alone, we’d still be working in the garage.’ ” 

Holland and Bresee combined their passion for outdoor adventures with an entrepreneurial spirit to build the second-largest online retailer of outdoor gear and clothing behind REI.com.

By the mid-2000s, Holland and Bresee were running a company with annual revenues of nearly $100 million, Forbes.com reported. Today, Backcountry has nearly 1,500 employees.

…”

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