Saturday, December 7, 2013

Specialized Bicycles--The Standard Oil of the bicycle industry

Veteran forced to change bike shop’s name after threat from SpecializedCalgary Herald
A Canadian veteran of the Afghanistan war who operates a tiny bicycle shop in Cochrane is being forced to change his store’s name after being threatened with a lawsuit by one of the giants of the U.S. bike industry.

Dan Richter, owner of Cafe Roubaix Bicycle Studio, located above the famous Mackay’s Ice Cream in Cochrane, says he received a letter from the lawyers of big bicycle maker Specialized several months ago, demanding he change the store’s name because the company owns the trademark on the word Roubaix, which they use to market a brand of road bike.

Richter, however, says he didn’t name his store after the company’s bike, rather after a region in France that hosts one of the most famous bike races in the world, the gruelling 117-year-old Paris-Roubaix. Because the name is an icon of bike culture, and graces hundreds of other products from bike tires to a brand of cycling tights sold by MEC (and even other road bikes), Richter says he has a good case to keep the store name, but is capitulating because he can’t afford a legal fight in court.

“It’s been frustrating,” Richter told me. “The response throughout this process (from Specialized) has been arrogant and almost unbelievably dismissive.

“We didn’t want to go public . . . but they’ve made it clear on no uncertain terms, they are going to sue.”

Larry Koury, managing director of Specialized Canada Inc., said the company is simply defending its legally owned trademark.

“A simple trademark search would have prevented this,” Koury wrote in an email, along with a reference to the federal government’s trademark database showing Specialized’s registration of the word Roubaix. “We are required to defend or lose our trademark registration.”

When Specialized tries to trademark the name Geraardsbergen...

Johan Knaven I thought this was some April Fools Joke when I first heard about it. I remember when Specialized was the small kid on the road bike block, and everyone wanted them to succeed as an alternative to 'Yreck.' F that anymore. They can keep THEIR Roubaix and all the other crap they market as I'll avoid anything with their name on it.
Perry Davidson Dear Specialized, I represent the letter "S" and as such I am alerting you of the need for you to immediately cease and desist using that letter "S". A simple search of the alphabet would have prevented this, but you have used the letter with impunity and the letter "S" is certain that, if it does not defend its right to ownership, everyone will feel some right to use what many people feel is just a letter of the alphabet. Thank you. 

Woody Tate Please leave that guy and his shop alone. No one thinks his business has any thing to do with your bike frame. You don't own the name of a town in France!

Scott Baker Do to this ridiculous law suit trying to force a hard working vet out of business. I'll never buy a single product from you ever. Congrats, and thanks for making all my future bike and product decisions so much easier!

David Igger My wish list involves a French lawsuit against specialized for using the name of a famous town for their bikes. A-holes. 

 Scott Edwards I wonder if the city of Roubaix might sue Specialized for using it's name? How many bikes/marketing docs/etc... would they have to change, and what would it cost their business? Quit being asshats and get to work designing and building bikes, not being a source for lawyers to make other's lives miserable. I stopped buying their bikes in the early 2000's - even though they were decent bikes, I got fed-up with the company practices.

 Andrew Rockwell Incredibly disappointed in you Specialized... Your case against Café Roubaix Bicycle Studio is unethical and proves that you are, in fact, the big greedy corporate entity that everyone has been claiming you are.... I feel dirty for having defended you in the past few years. I was about to drop a grand or so on shoes and a helmet but I think I've decided to buy Sidis and Kask instead. Cheers.

 Brian Curtis Cafe Roubaix! Specialized leave them alone. How asinine of you to sue a small bike shop! What's next, France and the Paris-Roubaix race? You guys are lame for this!

Richard Dahl You don't deserve a dime of any cyclist's money until you stop harassing someone who is positively supporting the community. Boycott Specialized and support your LBS. Shame on you Mike Sinyard.
Leonardo Ricardez It's a shame what you guys are doing. For a company that actually puts out nice products, your corporate relations really suck! I like your products and your bikes, but because of the lawsuit, no more specialized for me.

Jennifer Miller Suing a small company for the use of a name you do not own is beyond low Specialized. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Apparently, this is not the first time you have squashed small bike shops. Your time can be better spent elsewhere. I am sickened by what you have done and will no longer be supporting you. Goodbye and good riddance.

Terry Carroll As with trademarks, companies need to maintain public goodwill or loose it. It goes both ways. People have free will to speak up when the protection of a trademark seems to cross over into bullying. In fact, consider it an obligation: people need speak up or loose the right to speak. Specialized has a choice here, too. Are they going to be "good" in the eyes of customers, or "right" in the eyes of corporate law? This will play out in two venues, both of which allow for maximum use of respective rules. So: law, meet the marketplace. 

Eric Smith Until you drop the lawsuit against the Cafe Roubaix, I will do everything in my power to spread the word and encourage people to not buy anything with a Specialized name on it.

Are you going to build a bike called "New York" and sue everyone in Manhattan?

Jerry M. Abowd You guys are absolute pigs! Muscling out a small veteran owned business for no real reason at all.. Instead, you should be thanking this veteran for his service, which ultimately allows your business to operate. I can only hope that your sales plummet and you feel the true wrath of your greed.. Your bikes are over priced pieces of crap anyway... Personally, I will NEVER buy ANYTHING associated with your brand 

Michael Brewster If this doesn't go away consider me a former customer. There is an old business adage, trying to gain a new customer is twice as hard as keeping an existing one. Show some class - Specialized !
Kevin Tweed You have done some really ignorant and unethical practices in the past there is no doubt, but seriously you guys couldn't see just how bad this would be for you? A small bike shop in Alberta? Seriously? Cyclists are becoming more and more educated about the products they buy and are searching out ethical companies to purchase from and sure people will continue to buy your products but I have to say this is quite frankly the dumbest one I have heard you do so far. You really need to start thinking about people and not money, for you already have more than enough of that!
Duncan Parks OK, Specialized, I get it. You wanted to mooch off the reputation of a race that had run for 86 years before you sold your first bike. So you named a model "Roubaix." Fine - lots of companies use the reputation of the race to promote their products, including Fuji who named one of their models after the race before you did. But you somehow think you have an *exclusive* right to mooch of the reputation of that race? Let's just say that when I hear the name Roubaix, I don't imagine your bike first. If you're gonna play that way, however, I have to let you know that I have this thing on my desk called a "globe," so you better think of a new name for your city bikes

Michael Manning Really Specialized? When did you become the Walmart of the cycling world? Muscle out a small bike shop because the name includes the name of a town in France. When did you come up with the name Roubaix? Oh, wait, you didn't.

One good thing out of this, a lot of people are aware of Cafe Roubaix now, I hope he gets plenty of new customers. Matter of fact, think I'll go order something from him now. Specialized, however, will no longer get a penny from me.

Andrew Marchment Specialized, I just wish to register my disappointment at this appalling action. There is no way that a cycle cafe in Canada can possibly impact your business and pursuing this case is quite simply bang out of order.

Chris Poepping Hey Specialized my first bike was a Roubaix and was not yours, so what you gonna do sue me? I used to race one of your bikes I will now be selling all my specialized and will never ever consider bringing them into my shop as I once did. You are not innovators your are tyrants to the cycling world I am done with your bullying!!!!!

Shawn Pettis What a way to pick on the little guy. I will not be buying specialized and will ensure the word is spread around to everyone I know. Maybe you should think about how you can help your community, rather then thinking the only option is to step on it.

Timothy McCarthy I've always had a soft spot for Specialized--since I was raised in the Bay Area and watched the company grow, from Mike all on his lonesome, hustling parts to bike shops, to the huge innovator the company has become. I ride a Specialized bicycle. However, this action seriously erodes my faith in the brand. A lousy, lame move. How you resolve this situation will affect my future cycling product purchases. I won't toss the bicycle away, but this strange, unfair legal action, makes me feel lousy when I ride the bike and my heart goes out to the small shop affected.

Matthew Bracht I am 1 a 40 year cyclist and customer of yours and 2 a veteran. Well now I am a former customer of yours.

Julian Shuttle I'm never buying another specialized product and will never recommend you again. Disgusting, bullying behavior.

Paul Savage I believe there is a cobbled one day race in France which is busy trampling all over your copyright. You need to sue them immediately! Oh, and you won't be able to use any profits from me to do so as I'll not be buying any more of your kit....

Sean McCulloch bunch of corporate whores. it's a name of a town. what's next, naming a bike " the brian" and then suing everyone named brian for copyright infringement? been riding specialized for 10+ years, however, I do not support horseshit corporate greed. so long big hit, hello kona...

John Gannaway This is embarrassing Specialized and does nothing but cause your company bad press. Please consider publicly apologizing and admitting that this is wrong. You guys will NOT be on my list of possibilities for bikes if this does not happen, EVER.
Jim Uffelmann Wait maybe it isn't the roubaix specialized feels ownership of, maybe they are laying claim to the word bicycle. Only slightly more ludicrous. I hope the town of Roubaix sues Specialized for misappropriating the name of their town. I echo the common (universal) sentiment that I will never use another specialized product unless this nonsense stops. Roubaix, bicycle and cafe for that matter have all been associated with one another long before Specialized's legal and marketing teams showed up at the party.

Aimee Gould Ring ring. Ring ring. France is calling. They are requesting Specialized to stop using Roubaix - you are bringing digrace to the name.

Oh yea. Trek called too. They just said, "Thank you. And they appreciate the early Christmas gift!!"

Chris Jones I've found the FaceBook 'unlike' button is connected to my wallet.

Alan Roubaix Whitsett The word "Roubaix" does not make most cyclists think of Specialized...those of us who ride and pay attention to the sport realize that Roubaix is the finishing city for one of the most grueling bicycle races in think that a small shop in Canada elicits such a fear based response from a corporate monster such as you is surprising...I would think you would have recognized that any word other than Specialized in front of the word Roubaix creates a very distinct separation of mindset. Having spoken to Dan, the owner of Cafe Roubaix I have profound respect for him as a man, a cyclist, and a business Mr Sinyard, have not earned that same level of respect despite your money.

Cat Cassidy Hey Specialized. I run a bike shop called "Low Quality Poorly Designed Chinese Made Ugly Corporate Bicycles." Are you going to sue me for infringing on you brand? Maybe I should sue you for that Allez frame of mine that cracked.

Rob Manning

Question: What do you get when you sue a small bike shop because they had the name of a famous region of France in the title?
Answer: A LOT of pissed off (formerly) potential customers.

Hey Specialized, or should I call you SnapAnDie or SpecialEd, why don't you sue France for trademark infringement? Or the ASO for running Paris-Roubaix? Or the Roubaix velodrome? Or the city of Roubaix.

Assholes....all of you, from Sinyard on down.

Steve Shaw

David Bürrell Specialized has become the Lance Armstrong of the bicycle industry……… "Bully Anyone" that might try to go their own way. Cino Cinelli would be sick!

And as it turns out Specialized doesn't even control the trademark they are bullying the bike shop owner over.

ASI says Calgary bike shop can use Roubaix name-Bicycle Retailer

Published December 9, 2013
The trademark owner says Specialized's enforcement of the trademark was out of line
BOULDER, CO (BRAIN) — Specialized Bicycle overstepped its bounds when it registered the Roubaix trademark in Canada and then tried to prevent a Calgary retailer from using the name, Advanced Sports International’s CEO told BRAIN on Monday.

ASI says it owns the worldwide rights to the Roubaix trademark — it’s had a Fuji Roubaix road bike model in its lineup since 1992 — and has licensed it to Specialized since 2003. ASI’s Pat Cunnane said the company has no problem with retailer Dan Richter using the name on his store, Cafe Roubaix.

“We have reached out to Mr. Richter to inform him that he can continue to use the name, and we will need to license his use, which we imagine can be done easily,” Cunnane said.

Richter told the Calgary Herald this weekend that lawyers representing Specialized told him he had to rename his store and transfer its website’s URL to Specialized. Besides the store, Richter sells Cafe Roubaix-branded wheels. The general manager of Specialized Canada told the Herald that Specialized had to protect its trademark or risk losing it. Specialized’s U.S. office has not commented on the situation, despite negative press and an outpouring of support for Richter over the weekend on social media

Cunnane said his company left a message for Richter but has not communicated with him yet. Cunnane also said he has reached out to Specialized with no response yet.

“We are in the process of notifying Specialized that they did not have the authority, as part of our license agreement, to stop Daniel Richter … from using the Roubaix name,” Cunnane said in an email to BRAIN. “While ASI does have the authority to object to Mr. Richter’s use of the name and while we at ASI understand the importance of protecting our bicycle model names, we believe that Mr. Richter did not intend for consumers to confuse his brick-and-mortar establishment or his wheel line with our Roubaix road bike. And we believe consumers are capable of distinguishing his bike shop and wheel line from our established bikes.”

According to the
Canadian Intellectual Property Office, Specialized registered the Roubaix name in 2007 for use on “Bicycles, bicycle frames, and bicycle components, namely bicycle handlebars, bicycle front fork, and bicycle tires.”

But Cunnane said that registration was “inappropriate.”
“Like many trademark owners, ASI does not register its trademarks in every country and never tried to register the mark in Canada. ASI only recently learned of Specialized’s registration of the Roubaix trademark in Canada and ASI’s position is that Specialized’s registration of the mark in Canada was inappropriate under the terms of their license agreement. ASI has used the mark in Canada for well over 10 years, giving it first-use trademark rights in Canada.”
In a phone call, Cunnane noted that ASI has been able to reach amicable agreements with several other brands over trademarks. For example, ASI owns the U.S. rights to the name Gran Fondo for use on bicycles, while BMC owns the rights in Europe. The two brands have a co-existance agreement to share the name in both markets.

Besides Fuji, ASI owns the Breezer, Kestrel and SE Bikes brands.

At the end of the day, or at least before the week was up, Specialized came to their senses. Good work by the bike community and that 21st century word "social media."

“I just want to say a big apology for this whole thing,” Sinyard said in the Café Roubaix video. “It got out of line and I completely take full responsibility for it. And most importantly, withdraw any claim and you can proceed as you like.” 

BIG Congrats to VELONEWS--as Specialized is a big advertiser they could have ignored the story--just like some Bicycling Magazine's reviews rate all their sponsor's products as *good*, or, *better*, or *best*.  But VELONEWS was on this story immediately and stayed with it. 



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