Edit3: GoFundMe for the legal costs of one of their targets:
Edit2: A follow-up article with more details on just how predatory and unreasonable BC (by proxy through their attorneys) have become:
Edit, @skierjerry, et, al, here's what I just sent my rep:
I read an article about Backcountry in the Colorado Sun that really disappointed me. Your employer has adopted ugly business tactics and begun using its size to attack smaller businesses who have the ubiquitous term “backcountry” in their name.
Please look at my lifetime spend with Backcountry as well as that of my wife. It is significant. It also stops now, and I’ll be making significant contributions to the legal funds of the boutique makes and businesses that your employer is assaulting.
I wish you nothing but the best on a personal level and hope that your employer chooses to take a better path."
After the Denver Post was acquired by Alden Global Capital, the paper's hedge fund owner,they laid of 1/3 of newsroom staff to maintain a profit margin on the property in the 20 percent range.
Several of those laid off (and some volunteered to migrate), they formed the Colorado Sun, which is online-only and does actual deep investigations locally. It's probably still hard and the money isn't easy, but its better than what we had!
The Editor is the Boulder Daily Camera fell on his sword quite spectacularly over it...
Don't forget, Black Diamond laid off much of the Utah engineering staff and their climbing cams will now be made in China... Not sure what other gear is taking that fate. Looks like it's Metolious Master Cams for me now.
Answering my own question: looks like it. They brought it back in 2015 and are going back overseas in 2019.
As another example - Jorgenson Pony clamps were made in Chicago until they closed down (like 15 years ago). They're the gold standard for woodworking clamps. Solid as a rock. The company announced they were re-making clamps. In China. At the world's largest clamp making plant.
They're garbage now. Materials are cheaper. The QC is nowhere near as good as they used to be. The price is more, even adjusted for inflation, than what they were when they were Chicago made - because people are buying the trusted brand name and getting burned for it.
It's just sad. I can't imagine that I would ever trust something like climbing gear to outsourcing. No thanks.
What sense of "hold up" are you using here, "support" or "delay?"
This is why the father to son family business model may prove more enduring.
If their comp package is weighted towards the five year term, they absolutely care about five years from now.
I'd like to add: there is no incentive for it either, shareholders want returns NOW, and so they want CEOs to act in their interest NOW. Most shareholders aren't looking at their "ownership" stake with compassion for employees at the company, or any form of responsibility to other stakeholders, but solely for their own bottom line.
Many of the biggest shareholders are major pension funds with 30 to 50 year time horizons. They absolutely do NOT want "returns NOW" with the implicit assumption that future quarters don't matter.
That is true but it is also true that they can’t risk waiting 30 years only to find their investment is worthless. Hence the insistence on quarterly reporting.
I know this is the received wisdom, but as a shareholder, I emphatically do not want this. I want long-term value, as I am a long-term investor. I hate that I have to watch out for shady things like this and adjust my holdings accordingly.
I understand that it's rational behavior for someone driven exclusively by money, but that's an important qualification. Most people are not money robots, so they aren't given these jobs.
But it shouldn't be a strong incentive, right? Getting fired from a CEO position is fine, you're almost certainly set for life. I understand this is sort of a circular argument, because anyone who doesn't buy into this incentive structure won't be hired as CEO, but my point is that somebody who is willing to go along with this system isn't really behaving rationally in the normal sense of the word.
Generally, a non-founder CEO is a ferociously competitive person--probably to the point of being pathological. They often "play poker" in situations where there is very little upside to doing so.
Great salespeople are often the same way, they simply can't turn it off.
You are asking a leopard to change his spots after he has started eating the antelope.
That was precisely the parent comment's point.
The behavior won't change until the incentives do.
Whereas a manufacture in another country might say: "For that little money, I won't do the job.", in China the answer is more like "For that little money, I'll do the job [but I'm going to rip you off, and for how little you're paying, you should already know you're going to get ripped off.]"
Got any links for a person to learn more about this cultural difference?
Yes I have purchased climbing equipment on Amazon but I always felt bad about it.
They broke on my first really long hike. 1/3 of the way into a 72 mile route..
That might be why
You're seriously underestimating how hard it might to to engineer and test even something as seemingly simple as a walking stick. These are lightweight, high-tech materials we're talking about (carbon fiber), which even SpaceX gave up on for their latest spacecraft. They're also collapsible/foldable. Simply put, this is harder than you think it is.
Anyway I'd think production/manufacturing and quality assurance would be more to blame, particularly if the same products used to perform better than now.
Designing the walking stick is simply the start. The problem is that you specified some really expensive materials with exotic manufacturing requirements that your supplier probably doesn't understand unless they are in aerospace.
Of course, aerospace manufacturers are ferociously expensive, and your customer can't really tell the difference if you are 1 or 2% less effective, but they can tell if you are 10% cheaper, so you start downgrading your manufacturing.
And then the problems start. The new manufacturer probably doesn't understand exotic materials as well, or they would be an aerospace supplier charging you more money. So, maybe they don't apply a cross layer, maybe they change the binding agent, maybe they use a cheaper material.
How do you, as the manufacturer, know?
You would have to put people on quality assurance analysis, but those are valuable engineers.
For a product that is $200. Max. For a company that has a revenue of roughly $100 million a year and basically no profit.
So, go find a company that charges $500-$1000 for your sticks and creates an actually good product, or suck it up and buy the Chinese crap.
I'm not sure if I see what's wrong with that. Like it or not, electronics manufacturing is centered around China and the APAC region. Trying to set up manufacturing outside that region, especially for a company that doesn't specialize in electronic goods, simply doesn't make sense.
The thing that really pisses me off is that they are attacking people in business because they love the sport. These boutique makers are often just scraping by and don't have the margins to sustain much resistance at all.
Or even companies that are not at all in competition. See the story on Lemonade and T-Mobil currently on the front page. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21453626
I buy essentially all my gear from the REI co-op, who seem to have both customer-friendly return policies as well as genuine commitments to environmental standards for the gear they stock.
I'm not sure whether it's a case of more people arguably abusing the spirit if not the letter of the policy as part of a modern take everything you can mindset. Or if it's that more and more stuff is made in the same Chinese factories and they literally tend not to "make stuff like they used to."
A bit of both is my guess.
"Increasingly, a small, but growing number of customers has been interpreting our guarantee well beyond its original intent. Some view it as a lifetime product replacement program, expecting refunds for heavily worn products used over many years. Others seek refunds for products that have been purchased through third parties, such as at yard sales."
Turns out that a "forever" guarantee lasts longer than shifting moral standards.
This was before all consumer electronics were consolidated into a few chains, so he was able to go to a different place each year.
These days there are companies that monitor that sort of thing and will alert the stores when you try to return stuff. But considering the state of online shopping, I wonder if he's still doing it.
I think that's the rationale they gave, and I believe them. My brother has pushed what I consider the moral limits of generous return policies a couple of times, and given what I've seen at REI scratch and dent sales, I think other people are as well.
Most of the stuff in the stores is those brands fashion lines, but their website regularly has more outdoor focused gear. I even once bought a Snow Peak backpacking stove from them.
That's probably a part of it, a long running joke in the skier community was that "REI is an acronym for Return Every Item."
That plus blatantly notably lower quality Chinese production probably put an end to it.
I have never personally used this policy but I know others who have.
So I mean, its minor, and maybe I'm being petty, but it irritated me enough to stop buying gear there. Esp given how much I'd spent on winter camping gear the months before. Started trying to support local shops more where I can, and buying online elsewhere.
That's easy. Pretty much every single non-REI branded item that they sell in the store is insanely marked up compared to what it can be bought in the brand's store.
Nah. I'm a regular REI shopper and this has not been my experience at all (I always check competing retailers before buying something at REI).
People justify it because of the dividends gimmick. Hell, I fell the first year for it myself.
For instance: https://www.wired.com/story/rei-anniversary-sale-outdoor-dea...
The best 'deal' I found at REI was a ENO DoubleNest hammock for $12 at the garage sale, perfect condition. A near second would be a Black Diamond Access (I think) insulated hoodie for about $100, lasting me more than 6 years as my insulated layer for climbing, snowboarding, all around and casual use.
REI is a cult. 10 years ago it was a cult that brought lots of things to the members because the brands sucked at selling on the internet or marketing on Instagram. Now the brands adjusted, and REI still behaves as if this is 2009.
"I've been a member for a while now"... guy paid 20 bucks, one time, thinks he's part of an elite outdoors club.
It is the case for virtually all the products REI carries.
REI outlet price: 77.73
After additional sale: $58.30
What's your point again?
And that's the case across the board.
And their competitors base line is pretty much always MSRP - 10%. That's why REI pretty much never shows up on Slickdeals apart from their blow out, out of season sale.
It makes sense that they stopped offering a lifetime policy. 1 year is still generous. They also offer price adjustments up to 2 weeks after purchase (if a sale starts, for example).
I paid almost $200 for an Outdoor Research rain jacket back in 2017. Last month the zipper broke off, and they immediately sent me a replacement. Now I won't think twice about what brand I buy the next time anyone in my family needs a lightweight rain jacket.
I used to be a long-distance road cyclist, and I paid a premium for the Dura Ace brand for chains, cassettes, chainrings, shifters, etc. On two different occasions something failed in the 3rd year of use, and both times Shimano replaced the broken part under warranty. Had I gone with cheaper kit, I would have had a slightly less quality ride experience and would have been out the cash to buy replacements out of warranty.
I bought a pair of L.L.Bean boots 2 months before they suddenly dropped their lifetime replacement policy. Guess what brand of boots I'm not going to touch with a ten-foot pole now?
Finally, I owned a Tesla for almost 3 years. For the first year Tesla honored its warranty for about a dozen issues that came up. I was willing to work with them through the issues because of how responsive to the problems they were at first. By the time I was at year 3, they were refusing to fix anything -- most notably, a shudder in the half-shaft that happened under moderate acceleration. I immediately got rid of it and won't ever purchase another car from that company.
It's all about how you treat your customers after the sale. Shimano and Outdoor Research have a fan for life. L.L. Bean and Tesla have earned someone who now discourages others from purchasing their products.
Maybe they just like to see their gear after some proper usage to see how it's holding up.
The only caveat seems to be that they now require you to have the original receipt, otherwise people would still be buying 30 year old clothing at garage sales and exchanging it (which is the reason they had to drop the lifetime guarantee to begin with).
As for returns, I'm not sure they're any "better" than REI, but I fully buy into their philosophy of "if it's broken, fix it" and "don't buy this jacket." They try to be the antithesis of fast fashion and consumerism. If your jacket's zipper or stitching fails after 10 years of taking you to incredible heights, and you feel entitled to a replacement, you are delusional. Either fix it, or pony up the dough for a new one. You're not just investing in a new piece of clothing when you exchange money for it, you are investing in the company and its continued craftsmanship, R&D and training of newcomers to keep making and improving things. And in Patagonia's case, lobbying for better standards environmentally and sociopolitically. Asking for a refund or replacement is basically a vote for offshoring, reduced quality, carelessness towards the environment, etc as far as I'm concerned.
This is a commonly repeated myth. The circumstances in which you could even possibly lose control of a trademark in this way (genericization, abandonment) are very narrow and difficult to apply. For more context, try https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/11/trademark-law-does-not...
Of course, backcountry is a special case because it was already generic before it was incorrectly trademarked.
The problem is that "backcountry" is a generic term and trying to enforce otherwise is simple an act of corporate assholery.
Amazon is brilliant for charging the customer 120 bucks a year for shipping and not making them feel the pinch on each transaction.
This caught my eye: is 120,000 people considered a small market?
I grew up in a town of 5,000, work in a small city of 50,000 (which has plenty of amenities, including multiple independent outdoor sports stores) and now live in a village of 200 people.
Not having a central point of failure for your checking account is a boon these days I think.
I will say that when I went to the local REI here the lady I worked with actually spent about an hour with me fitting a pair of backpacking boots and explaining how and why some of the boots would fail when I wore them. I learned more about my feet from her than from any of the other places I went.
You can get that kind of experience at a lot of the boutique alpine or backpacking stores though.
As for repairs, good luck. I took something into an REI recently to get repaired as I had done in the past and it was: "Nope. Don't do repairs any longer. Send it to a place in (somewhat ironically) Seattle."
The only problem is actually finding a good outdoor gear store - i'm lucky enough to live in a mountain resort town, so my options are pretty good, but many places simply don't have a local shop.
Compared to really despicable actions I've heard of from so many other behemoth companies, Walmart seems to be relatively benign. Some people complain about them putting small businesses out of business when they open up, but what do you expect when a large retailer opens up nearby and has a big economy-of-scale advantage? My main problem with them is that they tend to have a lot of cheap junk, and not a lot of better stuff, but what do you expect from a retailer that caters to the crowd that wants stuff as cheaply as possible? They also have kinda crappy, dirty stores many times, but again, look at their clientele. So I usually go to Target for that kind of shopping instead, and to Wegman's for other groceries that Target doesn't carry.
The shopping experience at Walmart is really only unpleasant in areas where the "Walmart is gross" meme has pervaded the local psyche enough to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. It probably doesn't help that local governments in such areas do everything they can to deny Walmart's permits and keep them relegated to "not in my backyard".
In most places, Walmart isn't any worse than any other major department store, and shopping there is near-universal. You're more likely to have an incident with another shopper at a place like Target simply because the shopper base that actively selects against Walmart in non-Walmart-hostile areas is much snootier.
As for "incidents" with shoppers, I'm not sure what you're talking about there.
Amongst many other not just questionable but reprehensible moves behind the scenes in many, many places. If they can find a way around the system, they will, and go beyond to bribe people into staying quiet about it.
Even after hearing how bad Amazon's fulfillment centers grind people down, I'd still buy from them before giving WalMart anything.
First they take on a product line and become a big % of the company's sales, then they start tightening the screws and demanding price cuts. The manufacturer has to either give up a large fraction of their total sales or use cost-cutting measures like offshoring and materials substitution to reduce their cost so they can sell at the price Wal-Mart demands. Wal-Mart does this incrementally over time so the company has already started down the road by the time they realize what's being done.
This was a big part of the manufacturing offshoring movement of the last few decades. Of course one company isn't solely responsible for that trend, but Wal-Mart with their huge size was a significant part of it. This was before Amazon was a thing. Now the damage is done and everyone seems to be forgetting that Wal-Mart had a hand in it.
And yet, every month there is a story like this in the news of "big company with generic name sues small company with same name" because nobody likes a bully. The problem is, if they DO NOT attack, the trademark claim will become severely diluted and then THEY will become vulnerable to a trademark dispute from someone else down the line, and the other party will point to their lack of historical defense and make an argument that the claim on the trademark is weak.
"I wish you nothing but the best on a personal level and hope that your employer swiftly goes out of business and leads to reform of trademark laws."
I had actually been following those Marquette Backcountry Skis thinking some day I might get some. This makes me want them more.
Thanks for your feedback!
Think what you may, but if there is ever a time to use the phrase that you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet its now. Its being handled correctly, and not displayed honestly.
We will be releasing a statement today or tomorrow regarding the issue. We haven’t said anything due to confidentiality agreements, that other parties violated but anyways. I respect your opinion and decision.
Let me know what I can help with gear-wise in the meantime,
Be sure to hold that against them as you continue to take your business elsewhere. This wasn't a mistake or tone-deaf - they simply got caught.
Also the accuracy of your claim has already been debunked fairly well elsewhere in the thread.
That has nothing whatsoever to do with the comment you replied to.
>They're taking "defense" to a ridiculous, douchy extreme.
Unless they did not send letters prior to filing their cases (of which I am unaware and the article did not mention), then everything mentioned is neither ridiculous nor douchey except as far as trademark law in business always is. If the term actually does not indicate to consumers what company manufactured it due to its common usage, all that needs to happen is one of the challenged companies put up a defense claiming genericization or lack of validity of the original trademark (that one is probably more suitable in this case) and a court will decide if that's so. With trademark, as a company you do not get a choice.
If they choose not to fight a small business using the name, that is a 100% legitimate defense for Walmart to use when they release Walmart Backcountry Skis that have nothing whatsoever to do with Backcountry.com.
The EFF article provided by another commenter does not 'debunk' anything. We're not talking about a company suing people for talking about the company. We're talking about a company suing other companies for promoting products in the exact same space with the trademarked name. This is what trademark law was kind of created for in the first place. If you can convince a court that if you walked into a Walmart and saw Walmart Backcountry Skis on sale that it would never cross the mind of either you or any other consumers that the Backcountry company might have been involved in their production, that is your defense and the trademark will be nullified and the lawsuit will be won.
And Walmart should be able to sell “Walmart Backcountry Skis” because backcountry skis are a subtype of skis like alpine skis or cross country skis. Backcountry.com did not create the friggin product space or popularize the term “backcountry.” It’s a generic blanket term that refers to an entire range of activities.
The argument that they have to do this to defend their trademark also falls apart when you remember why they haven't sued Kohlberg & Co: their trademark was already in use. And by a supplier, no less.
That being said, the fundamental purpose of trademarks is to eliminate consumer confusion. In order to defend against a challenge, you would need to present to the court strong evidence that there is very little chance a consumer might be confused as to the maker or origin of the goods due to the name. For instance, if you made a line of frozen pizzas and called them 'backcountry style' pizzas, is there a chance that some consumers might think those pizzas were made by Backcountry.com? You've got to be able to show that this is not a likely scenario even if Backcountry.com starts manufacturing frozen foods (assuming the trademark covers frozen foods, I have no idea if it does, but it wouldn't surprise me if it did).
I developed a website for reserving parking near airports and seaports years ago and the site launched under the name BookParkFly.com. Shortly thereafter, the business (I was just a contracted web developer) received a letter from a lawyer representing the people who owned a sorta-similar trademark in the same space for a company called, if I remember correctly, Park 'N Fly. I personally thought we might have been able to win a challenge in court, but the company didn't want to fight it so changed the name and rebranded everything. (It's Book2Park now if you're curious, but I severed ties with them years ago. Before they were featured on Krebs after getting someone else to slap in an insecure Wordpress blog after I told them if Wordpress was going to be used it had to be watched closely for security concerns...)
Trademark challenges aren't "bullying" or "aggressive". They're basic law 101 and really shouldn't surprise anyone in business. That's why you pay an attorney to do a trademark search if you really want to use a certain name.
Or not. There are lots of other players in this space.
Yup, I buy my snowsports gear pretty much exclusively from evo. I love going to the B&M store here in Denver, even though it gets disgustingly crowded sometimes I have never had a bad experience there. Plus their prices are competitive, or at least competitive enough that I don't bother shopping around at this point because I like the service so much.
We need this to be resolved at a cultural, societal, and/or legislative level.
T-Mobile says it owns exclusive rights to the color magenta
Everything about that seems like a bad idea.
It's one thing to sue over similar names—I can see a case that people might have misconceptions over products. Saying you own the rights to a color is ridiculous. T-Mobile and Lemonade are in different industries.
Intellectual property is saying that I own this particular result of turning a number into usable output regardless of starting number.
This is to say that we can't tell without actually decoding the number so we are in fact asserting that there is a chance we own any and all numbers if someone later publishes the encoding that would turn your number into a picture of a cartoon mouse.
Automobile ownership is saying that I own this particular result of turning a unique cartoon mouse picture into usable car regardless of starting cartoon mouse picture.
This is to say that we can't tell without actually decoding the cartoon mouse picture so we are in fact asserting that there is a chance we own any and all cartoon mouse pictures if someone later publishes the encoding that would turn your cartoon mouse picture into an automobile.
I think this proposal is too obtuse. These cases bother us because the man who founded Backcountry Denim was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt to have intended to encroach on the “backcountry.com” brand, nor was it proven that he failed to take reasonable precautions to avoid doing so. If that is the fair and just way to rule on these cases then that should be made to be the way that the judiciary rules. Proof of innocence beyond a reasonable doubt may not be exactly the right burden of proof in this case but the point stands that changing how the judges rule would solve more problems than arguing the semantics of the term “generic”.
I’m not sure of this is good or bad.
You can’t have exclusive use of the name
Rottweiler for selling Rottweilers. However, you could register Rottweiler as a trademark for other goods or services. Where the mark isn’t the generic name for the goods, it’s usually an arbitrary or suggestive mark. Or if it’s a made-up word, it’s called fanciful. Your example DogHead would be a fanciful mark.
In short, the mark is always considered in connection with the goods and services with which it is used.
Trademark defense is one thing if you're proactive about it -- and as I understand it this is even a legal requirement for keeping the mark. Attacking another longstanding business because you've changed your business plan is, well, at least mildly sociopathic.
No, you didn't create it, many people could've arrived at the same.
> What about Dog or Canine?
> What if I combined “generic” terms like DogHead?
Yes, it requires creativity.
If you can't copyright it then you shouldn't be able to trademark it.
Copyrights and trademarks aren't comparable in that way; they cover different things. I can't copyright the word "DogHead" or even the phrase "DogHead Software". I can trademark "DogHead Software," and I can copyright works produced under the DogHead Software brand name.
In fact, you could trademark "Rottweiler," especially if you trademarked in conjunction with another word that made it distinctive, e.g. the actual trademarks I've found for "Rottweiler Recordz" (a recording studio) or "Rottweiler Performance" (a motorcycle parts company). Trademarks have to identify specific uses: there's a trademark pending for "Rottweiler" for use for shoe brushes, and the goods and services claimed cover a variety of cleaning brushes. Even if they get the trademark, it doesn't overlap "Rottweiler Performance," and I could file a separate trademark for "Rottweiler" as a beer company.
With respect to "Backcountry," the biggest arguments against the trademark are (a) that "Backcountry" should be considered a "generic mark" (e.g., you can't name your escalator company "Escalator (tm)", and (b) even if Backcountry isn't sufficiently generic to fail that test, Backcountry.com is making too broad a use claim.
- With third parties for their direct marketing purposes.”
At least as described in the “privacy” policy, this can include purchase history, device, geo location, and more, though just name and address would be bad enough.
"In September, the website went after David Ollila, a serial entrepreneur who in 2010 created a short ski for climbing snowy hills he called the Marquette Backcountry Ski...Backcountry.com argued that Ollila knew he was intentionally abusing the Backcountry.com mark because he had ordered products from the website in 2002 and 2010."
Well that's unfortunate to see. Motosport has always been pretty good to me. Looks like I'm finding a new store for dirtbike parts.
"The term ‘backcountry’ is widely used by retailers and consumers to describe products and services to be used in remote, sparsely inhabited, rural areas,” Branch wrote in his counterclaim petition for cancellation, calling backcountry a “generic” term."
But I see your point. I do wonder if any of these defendants have added 'the term is descriptive, and therefore indefensible' to their defense.
That doesn’t mean the trademark will hold up under a challenge. But a challenge takes time and money, and a recurring theme in this story (and many like it) is that one party is way bigger and richer than the other. For a small business, it’s generally going to be way cheaper to just change their name than to take on a federal court case against a national company backed by private equity—even if they think they would win.
A system like this would keep frivolous lawsuits to a minimum.
So maybe it should be automatic that when a huge company sues a small company and loses, the small company gets all its legal fees paid plus a big payout for their time being wasted.
And maybe it should be different if small companies sue huge ones (e.g., patent trolls), or if small companies sue each other.
It's just as well, because Microsoft came out with something shortly after that had the same name. Definitely not someone you want to do battle with.
google became the term after the name gained popularity, base camp, back country, and such, were terms of activities or places long before someone decided it was a brand.
* edit : the two that stick out in my mind as brands establishing association with the product regardless of who made it would be xerox and Kleenex. In some parts of the world Coke is synonymous with soda.
Have you never heard of, for example, Facebook?
Compare that to "what is backcountry" and I think you'll see the difference.
I remember seeing a printed one in 1995. It was an official college of arts and sciences publication, so did not include any hotness ratings or non-academic vital data. Basically names, photos, undergraduate year of study, and majors.
They moved to departmental websites during and after that time, which is how Zuckerberg was able to scrape names and photos for his own skeezy little project.
Also try Patagonia's Worn Wear site!
I bet you don't live where I live.
Still, I think I’ve ordered things from them before, but never again.
Can’t believe a sandwich shop was targeted by them... and I wonder how business has been impacted.