Boycott Backcountry.com

Jonathan Ellsworth writes a response to backcountry.com's lawsuits against small businesses.

How Did We Get Here?

On October 31st, 2019, Jason Blevins of the Colorado Sun broke the story that the e-commerce company, backcountry.com, has been suing small business owners who have trademarked the word “backcountry.”

Please read Jason’s article (and follow-up article) in full.

That afternoon, I discussed my initial opinion about this on our GEAR:30 podcast, and noted that, if what Jason was reporting was indeed true, I couldn’t see how anyone who truly cared about the outdoors and was a member of the outdoors community could continue to support backcountry.com.

They were being bullies, going after companies who were most vulnerable and least able to defend themselves against frivolous claims of trademark infringement, and they were doing this repeatedly.

I noted in that GEAR:30 episode that I would have more to say on this topic. Mostly, I wanted to see was how quickly and convincingly backcountry.com would (1) respond to this story, (2) own up to their repeated behavior, and (3) make amends to the companies they’d sued and had threatened to sue.

And yesterday evening, Backcountry.com did issue a statement, so, it’s time now to say more.

What Backcountry.com Is — and Isn’t

For the record, I will only refer to the company in question as Backcountry.com — not “Backcountry” —  because this corporation seems to need to be reminded that it isn’t the real backcountry.

Backcountry.com is just an e-commerce website that sells products and widgets — only thing is, up until now, they had managed to convince many, many people in our outdoors community that they were more than just an e-commerce website selling widgets. Or rather, a lot of people hadn’t realized or didn’t notice that the company was straying further and further away from its roots.

Backcountry.com was started by John Bresee and Jim Holland. I do not know Jim Holland. I did know John Bresee (rest in peace, John), and he and I had spoken in recent years about what sort of company backcountry.com was turning into.

But there is a silver lining in the behavior of backcountry.com going around bullying small outdoors-oriented companies: in so doing, they have shown their true colors, shown what sort of company they are today, and shown what they have devolved into.

Clearly, this company has moved very far away from the practices, ethics, and ethos of the real backcountry.

What the true Backcountry Is — and Isn’t

The “backcountry” is the name that millions of us use to identify those sacred and severe places where we go to recreate, deepen friendships, challenge ourselves, reconnect with the greater world around us, where we help each other out, assist those in need, give of ourselves.

So it is appalling to think that this company has repeatedly been threatening and scaring members of our community who are offering avalanche safety courses (Backcountry Babes), making products to access these spaces (Marquette Backcountry Skis) and providing a kick to wake us up before or after a big day (Backcountry Nitro, who, facing a lawsuit from backcountry.com, rebranded to Wild Barn Coffee — you can read the story here).

In my book, that’s enough right there to sever all ties with this e-commerce platform, and to boycott the company.

And when you learn that this is what they’ve been up to, why on earth would you want to display the corporate logo of this company on your skis or your cooler or your roof box?

There was a time, years ago, when I understood why members of the outdoors community would do this. But that logo now represents the antithesis of a backcountry ethos and ethic.

And before you try to argue that everything you did was “legal,” please stop right there.

As every student of history knows, what is “Legal” and what is “Right” are often two different things. And when companies and corporations forget this, they lose their street cred and their right to claim that they understand the community that they are trying to reach.

You’ve outed yourself.

And then, you issued this….

The “Apology” — 11.06.19

More than a week after this story broke, the CEO of backcountry.com, Jonathan Nielsen, finally came forth with a statement.

And it was the sort of “corporate apology” that we all have come to know too well.

First of all, a real apology wouldn’t have come a week later. The corporation apparently took its time to see which way the winds were blowing, to see if this thing would die down.

But thanks to the community of people who actually care about the outdoors and the real backcountry, this has not died down, and I am enormously proud of that. Thanks to every single one of you who have made sure that this has not quietly gone away.

The second thing is that a real apology does not read like this.

Here is the CEO’s letter in full, with my commentary:

“We have heard your feedback and concerns, and understand we fumbled in how we pursued trademark claims recently. We made a mistake.”

No, Mr. Nielson, your company did not make “a mistake.” You targeted the smallest companies, the most vulnerable, the least able to defend themselves, and the easiest to scare.

You did not do this once, you did this repeatedly.

We all witnessed this type of behavior on the playgrounds of our schools when we were kids. The bullies often went after the most vulnerable. That was their M.O., and that has been the M.O of backcountry.com.

And the behavior of those bullies on those playgrounds wasn’t a “mistake,” it was, much like backcountry.com’s behavior, a calculated decision, and a repeated, cowardly practice.

“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.”

You took “certain actions” — i.e., you repeatedly threatened and sued small, outdoors companies.

And you now recognize that those actions “were not consistent with our values.”

If you only recognize this now — only after many thousands of us have called you out — it is safe to say that your values are not our values, and that they haven’t been for years.

“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.”

First of all, we don’t believe you. And this notice sent by one of your representatives to Backcountry Nitro — now Wild Barn Coffee — says otherwise (again, you can read the details here).

And second, screw you for using the language of “last resort” — you were not forced to resort to anything here. You were not being harmed, you were not the target of malicious activity, and we are smart enough to know this. You have convinced none of us, and you insult all of us with your “last resort” language. We call bullshit.

“That said, we know we mishandled this, and we are withdrawing the Marquette Backcountry action.”

It’s good to see you taking a correct step here. But this is just the first necessary step. There are a lot of other steps you’ll need to take before we accept this apology of yours.

“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.”

This is another good step. We think it would be great for you to either learn for the first time or to remember what seems to have been forgotten long ago, the culture and values of your founders and of this community you claim to care about.

“We only want what’s best for the whole community and we want every person and business in it to thrive.”

This is an astonishing statement. Because if you are to be believed, then how on earth do you explain your ongoing, repeated behavior here? You claim that you now “only” want what amounts to the opposite of how you have actually been acting?

So, no, we don’t believe you. Rather, we believe that you are so out of touch that you are shocked by the reaction of the community you claim to want the best for.

“Backcountry has never been interested in owning the word “backcountry” or completely preventing anyone else from using it.”

Cool. There is a pretty simple way to prove this — quit with all the lawsuits, and go make amends with the companies you’ve bullied.

“But we clearly misjudged the impact of our actions.”

Yes, you did. And I’m sorry, but this is again clear evidence that you do not share our values. It wouldn’t dawn on any of us to threaten and bully tiny businesses, as you have repeatedly done.

We know who you are and what you are. When you say that you “misjudged the impact” of your actions, it is clear that you did not see this response coming, and that you clearly have lost complete touch with who we are — who this outdoors community is.

“We understand that this step we’ve taken may not be enough for some of you.”

Mr. Nielsen, I can tell you with complete certainty that “this step” is definitely not enough for the vast majority of us.

Great, you dropped the lawsuit against Marquette Backcountry Skis. But what about all of the other companies you’ve gone after?

“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.”

Selling widgets. You sell widgets. Widgets that we can easily buy elsewhere, from other online retailers and good local shops that understand our community, do more for our community, and haven’t strayed so far from the ethics and ethos of this community.

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

Talk is extremely cheap, so we won’t hold our breath. But perhaps your actions going forward will convince some of us that you have learned from this, that your apology is real, and that you can become a positive force in the outdoors community.

But what will that take?

Going Forward

If you want to start earning our trust back — rather than hoping that we’ll all just forget what you’ve done — then I propose that you should:

(1) Immediately drop all of these frivolous lawsuits. Right now.

(2) Reach back out to the companies who did settle with you, apologize if they felt scared or threatened by you, ask if they believe that their settlements with you were fair and “amicably and respectfully” reached (as you claim), or whether they settled with you out of fear. Make amends.

Less than that, and we will happily take our business to good local shops and other online retailers who don’t threaten, sue, and / or insult us.

I think it’s fair to say that you have a massive amount of work in front of you.

So please get to it, or go away.

And I hope that one or the other of those two things happens very quickly.

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68 comments on “Boycott Backcountry.com”

  1. I have a friend who works as one of those people who you can chat with if you go to the backcounty website. So many people have been chatting in and acting like the whole situation is her fault. How can someone think that a person making $11/hr is making those decisions? Please, remember these people are just trying to get by and trust me none of them are happy with what backcounty has done either. If you decide to chat in please be respectful to these people.

      • Pfvatterott, Kyle Frost’s opinion piece (not article) on the Outbound is almost as bad as the CEO’s apology. To summarize it:

        – “People are mad just to be mad.” Oh okay, sorry, my very legitimate reasons for being mad about this are in adequate. Blister outlined them very well and you clearly commented before reading or you’re disingenuously claiming nothing wrong happened here.

        – “Other companies do it.” So what? We caught backcountry.com red handed, and took that opportunity to force change. They changed. That means the action to argue and boycott was effective and, judging by backcountry.com’s actions, correct.

        – “He blames irresponsible media for not reporting the whole picture” Then he immediately names some other company’s lawsuits without providing any feedback. Hypocrite much?

        – “Won’t anyone think of poor capitalism?” One of the key components of Capitalism and competition is that as a consumer, you have the right to choose where to put your money. That’s all this is. It’s capitalism at it’s purest (albeit driven from social and moral attitudes and identities).

      • Followed your link… very level headed reasonable response. Things like this aren’t black and white.

        For me, anytime someone apologizes, I feel like I have to forgive them. If I’m not I’m judging them cuz I’m judging their motives, which is impossible. That being said, I still may or may not choose to continue that relationship so we’ll see what happens as the dust settles with backcountry.

    • Yup, working that job would have anyone convinced that all humanity are idiots (when in reality it is just the vast majority). You’re asking too much of the humans I’m afraid.

      • gearheads are just a cool-bro name for Customer Service. When you have a problem with a company, that’s who you go to. Everybody who has ever worked a public facing role knows:

        1. the public can be mean and stupid
        2. you are the front lines, therefore
        3. the mean stupid public will blame you, in your role as representative for the company

        That’s an unfortunate byproduct of all of this. But if backcountrydotcom didn’t wait a week to respond, and if they allowed more information, didn’t stifle the gearheads, etc. people would have reacted differently. So this is yet another thing that is the fault of Corporate.

      • To be honest aside from the “last resort” comment I thought the response was as good as you could expect to see. I hope they now walk the talk.

  2. So I should expect Blister to stop reviewing any Patagonia products… a standard in business need to be kept above all else, oh wait you guys have a Specialized Brand Guide and Specialized bike reviews published, I thought you would have boycotted Specialized since they did exactly the same thing not long ago!!! Welcome to America guys! Backcountry isn’t at fault those who allow companies to trademark terms like “patagonia” “backcountry” etc are the ones at fault. I wonder what would happen if someone shows up with a Blister Coffee, or a low quality cheap ski called Blister Ski, I’m sure you all would be okay with that!

    Good for you to get this rant out, but please consistency is the minimum I would expect!

      • the issue is blister is promoting a boycott to backcountry.com and kinda of using a language to downgrade the products backcountry.com offers, but at the same time uses a double standard reviewing and glowing over products from companies that acted in a similar way to backcountry.com. I have absolutely no affiliation to backcountry.com but I’d expect the same standard towards other companies that do similar things. So if they are promoting a boycott to backcountry.com why not promote the same boycott to companies like patagonia and specialized? Also using the same article language we shouldn’t even call Patagonia, maybe it should be patagonia.com since Patagonia is a region in South America shared by Chile and Argentina way before the clothing company Patagonia.com was created. I’m not discussing the right or wrong about those trademark law suits, but I’d expect consistency in opinions.

        • A quick internet search shows Patagonia sued Anhueser-fucking-Busch over trademark infringement. Hardly a “small” business just going about there own business. Do you have any facts that they go after small companies like backcountry.com has been doing?

        • Which incident(s) involving Patagonia are you referring to specifically? The one where they sued Anheuser-Busch for infringing on their logo and fonts, in addition to copying their signature jackets for use during marketing events? If so, that’s not even remotely related to the issue at hand with Backcountry.com.

          • The article linked above listed Paeonia (seems to be a hair care company that wanted to make clothing), Patagonia Artisan Bread (bread), Reveal Patagonia (tourism and guide company focused on Patagonia) and Patagonia Beer (which I agree doesn’t qualify as what we are discussing here). Specialized clearly went after a small shop company called Cafe Roubaix. We need to call them all out instead of single out bc.com

              • I’d argue it doesn’t offer a good point of view at all. From above:

                Kyle Frost’s opinion piece (not article) on the Outbound is almost as bad as the CEO’s apology. To summarize it:

                – “People are mad just to be mad.” Oh okay, sorry, my very legitimate reasons for being mad about this are in adequate. Blister outlined them very well and you clearly commented before reading or you’re disingenuously claiming nothing wrong happened here.

                – “Other companies do it.” So what? We caught backcountry.com red handed, and took that opportunity to force change. They changed. That means the action to argue and boycott was effective and, judging by backcountry.com’s actions, correct.

                – “He blames irresponsible media for not reporting the whole picture” Then he immediately names some other company’s lawsuits without providing any feedback. Hypocrite much?

                – “Won’t anyone think of poor capitalism?” One of the key components of Capitalism and competition is that as a consumer, you have the right to choose where to put your money. That’s all this is. It’s capitalism at it’s purest (albeit driven from social and moral attitudes and identities).

  3. feel like you should sleep on this article and re-write it when you’ve cooled down. that was impossible to follow.

    you never really said what they did, how often, etc. just tore in to repeating yourself over and over on a line-by-line breakdown. this was a childish rant not a well argued piece to get support for your boycott.

    they apologized. if they follow through, its an apology i’ll accept.

    • 1. It is a well written measured and respectful and easy to follow (by anyone over the age of 5) article
      2. Oops, the writer assumed you were informed as to what BCDC has been doing
      3. The irony of your poorly written, unpersuasive, and infantile comment is delicious
      4. You clearly have a ridiculously low apology bar

      XD

          • Patagonia isn’t innocent of this shit. In the late 80s they went after a climber in JTree for selling “Ratagonia” tees in the parking lot/campgrounds. Fuck you, BC.com and shame on you, Patagonia.

            • I think what people seem to miss is that in this case, the speed with which people found out made themn think they could do something about it – and it worked! To get people to abandon Patagonia in a similar manner (I am still not 100% convinced that would be warranted) would take an effort of several times the magnitude of what it took for this case – immediacy matters.

            • The Patagonia example is just silly.
              They have good reason to stop idiots like that who are clearly degrading and trying to feed off their brand.
              BCDC on the other hand is attempting to own a common term and suing everyone.

          • Actually the Amazon is large rain forest in South America, given its name before the existence of the online sales company we now refer to as Amazon. I will agree on Starbucks not being a common vernacular.

  4. I think the issue that strikes people as wrong is that Backcountry.com is trying to establish their trademark through litigation, not protect it. If you read the lawsuit against “Backcountry Babes”, you’ll understand what I am talking about.

    Does anyone out there associate “Backcountry” with a goat symbol as a manufacturer of clothing, skis, sleeping bags, beds, Backcountry equipment, etc? That is exactly what their lawyers argued. Would anyone reasonably think a company called “Backcountry Denim” or “Backcountry Babes” is associated with Backcountry.com?

    If somebody uses a logo like Patagonia’s to sell or promote clothing (or even beer), Patagonia has the right to defend that. They are an established clothing manufacturer, and their logo is associated with their company and its ethos, even by a casual observer.

    Backcountry’s executives really overshot here with their infringement argument. Many of the companies they are going after have been using the word “Backcountry” prior to BC.com trademarking that in relation to manufactured goods. It’s as if they decided to start making their own gear and clothing in 2015, then trademarked the term “Backcountry”, then started suing to “protect” their trademark from companies that had already been using that term prior to 2015.

    Here’s the link to the lawsuit

    https://lookaside.fbsbx.com/file/BackCounryBabes.pdf?token=AWyVtqzkMVp5YmSpSGTlQurBy73hvrEXCJBtKzJMMgvOfGpcbFI6Afk8PKa41HDCxENPr3-d3HtztWqi00RcNjD9sWvqtSocKfDgUZt4jlelaT7gIRAuWtaomg0rpkHxcgBlPbBWyI8yYHJ4ogj81Y-t2eYePDcTxet159b7DHqw8ZN5z_GJ4Lm_4pXAd1IqmlQ

    • Thank you Aaron for shedding some major enlightenment on the subject while everyone else’s comments are trying to make us dumber

  5. Plenty of “influencers” activated by BCDC to spin the narrative.
    They are pretty easy to spot when they COMPLETELY IGNORE the outrageous actions of BCDC and defect to whataboutisms and ALLEGED harassments of gear heads.

    • The best way to put that would be up until 2018 they were an online retailer. In 2018 they changed the trademark to represent virtually every single imaginable product one might use in the outdoors, around when they began selling rebranded products such as (paraphrasing here) the Backcountry Ski collab.

  6. “(2) Reach back out to the companies who did settle with you, apologize if they felt scared or threatened by you, ask if they believe that their settlements with you were fair and “amicably and respectfully,” reached, as you claim, or whether they settled with you out of fear.”

    That’s it?!

    They need to pay all their victims back in full for legal fees and time spent. AT MINIMUM.

  7. 1) “We get people who get outside—plain and simple.”
    – from the front page at http://www.backcountrycorp.com

    2) Also, funny that lawyers for backcountry.com consider their client to be THE most recognizable online retailer for the term “backcountry”. If you want gear and submit a search query “backcountry gear”, both Google & Yahoo list backcountry.com in search results BELOW their competitor https://www.backcountrygear.com , which seems to have been founded in 1997.

  8. While I fully support the sentiment, the statement is very judgemental and reminds me of a certain shrinkin’-and-pinkin’ ski company recent outburts towards MSP (if I remember the target correctly). These are demands based on appropriating the moral high ground.

    Could’ve done so much better.

    But just to iterate, d-ck move by BCDC.

  9. Your goat logo is now forever a symbol of a corporate bully. your apology is not believed to be sincere. to survive your company should go back to its roots and think about your customer base and Rebranding your name to disassociate with Backcountry.com as a mistaken chapter in your company’s history, would be a smart move.

  10. Personally for me the issue is not that Backcountry.com is working to protect its trademark, the issue is how the organization went about targeting small organizations with limited resources outside its domain to do it. It did not choose to attack Backcountry Access, Backcountry Magazine, Backcountrygear.com or even its biggest competitor (Evo.com) for branding a Backcountry Ski Shop as an online retailer. It targeted small brands it could scare without much of a fight. I am all for protecting a brand from “like” competition. An example would be Prime trucking company suing Amazon for the labeling of its Prime trucks in a way that directly impacts the smaller firms business. The use of these tactics by Backcountry.com alienates me as a consumer because I value the fact that an $880 Billion dollar industry such as outdoor recreation is fueled by a passionate core of consumers and brands. I like the fact that a small brand like Marquette Backcountry Ski can carve out a niche and support a passionate core of customers. I like the fact that this industry doesn’t operate like Pharma and Auto, which BTW the outdoor industry is larger than both of those combine.

    Is Backcountry.com within its legal rights? Absolutely. Does it have the right to protect its business and trademarks? Without a doubt and I invite them to do so. Do I think everyone should take a moral stand and boycott Backcountry.com? No. If you value their services and their business model, please buy from them. Will I continue to buy from them and support them with my money? Nope.

    Personal choice. I will vote on a company’s values and the alignment with my own through the dollars I spend.

    • “Is Backcountry.com within its legal rights? Absolutely. Does it have the right to protect its business and trademarks? Without a doubt and I invite them to do so.”

      I agree Backcountry is within their legal rights to sue (as is literally anyone for any cause of action no matter how frivolous), however it is entirely unclear to me that what would happen if backcountry.com attempted to sue an equally well resourced defendant. I think there is a good chance that a judge would ultimately side with the defendant and might invalidate the trademark in whole or to some significant extent. This is part of why the punching down that backcountry.com actually did bothers me so much, I really think anyone able to afford fighting them would have a very good case.

      The reason I think that the defendant would have a good case if this hypothetically ended up before a judge is that no sane person would confuse “Backcountry Babes” with a class run by “backcountry.com” the retailer. My very limited understanding of trademark law suggests that should matter.

      For me personally, backcountry.com can get out of the dog house if they (1) unilaterally release all parties from any obligations they may still have under legal settlements agreed with backcountry.com and (2) disclaim the application of their asserted trademark to any future good or service that is not substantially identical to backcountry.com’s actual current business of online retail. If they can’t/won’t do that then they’re still dead to me.

  11. How much of this is just lawyers run amok without any clue what they are doing???

    Could simply be some schmoe/schulb in a suit trying to justify new ways on how to rack up billable hours and corporate thinking he/she might actually be smart since they went to law school. (Seriously, what could be the reason/urge that people get to go to law school?$

    • If you go to their lawyer’s website, it is pretty clear what you’re getting yourself into when you hire them.

      The Homepage shows us this right when you arrive:

      “FIERCELY PROTECT WHAT’S YOURS”
      “The depth of experience and aggressive advocacy you would expect from the country’s largest trademark-only law firm”

      They knew that they were hiring a legal team that would bill as many hours as possible fighting any and all possibilities of infringement, regardless of how questionable those were.

      Frankly for me, another bare minimum step to take here would be that the CEO needs to resign. My gearhead told me that the CEO’s choice to drop the Marquette litigation was the result of a meeting with gearheads. But that raises two problems.

      First, was the CEO unlikely to do this before the gearheads spoke to him? Meaning how can we trust him as the leader of the company – until he is gone, there can be no possibility of trust.

      Second, it means that the gearheads potentially still support this CEO – the same CEO that we simply cannot trust from the firs point above. Nielsen needs to go.

      • The lawyers in their zeal to bill – oops, I mean protect their client’s interests – are therefore inherently incented to go after everybody they can. To this end they will likely paint a terrible picture of all these threats in order to incent their client to allow them to go after everybody. But, at the end of the day it is the client that decides who the lawyers DO go after. So, perhaps management listened to those lawyers and then went ahead and shot themselves in the foot. Maybe both feet. At the end of the day it is Backcountry’s owners/board of directors etc. who should decide if changes should be made in response to the certain damage done to their image and their long term profits.. Not dissimilar to Wells Fargo and many other companies. Probably just another short term profit driven decision. Dumb.

  12. Glad this has sparked such a healthy discussion. Good to see the passion of Blister, and in particular Jonathan, around this and also to get some counter views. Makes it easier for folks to make up their minds when you have a fuller picture. My personal take is that, like many of the folks above, the targeting of only small businesses is not ethical, sticks in the craw and does not say much for BCDC’s role in society (and they do have one, they are a business). I live in Switz so don’t buy from them anyway, but did used to when I lived in the US. Will not be returning unless there is a massive and actual climbdown, which pessimistically I do not expect.

    On a lighter note, I am now awaiting the union of goats worldwide to take BCDC down over their image rights infringements

    • I logged in. Deleted my credit card and mailing address, unsubscribed, logged out and sent a letter of intent to boycott until CEO resignation and full company values turn around to customerexperience@backcountry.com. Should’ve also included demands for full backdated amends as outlined in the article above too.

  13. @Mark – I totally agree with your statements. That is my issue as well (sorry if it was not fully communicated). It is the scare tactic that I take issue to, because like you, I think a reasonable judge would not deliver an agreeable verdict to backcountry.com which would hurt their position.

    Thanks for expanding on that point.

  14. Ya. Surprise! Backcountry is a business. Is it a good business? Good question. What defines a good business? Profits??? Growth??? Bonuses for the workers??? Of course those are the goals a good business strives for. But more profit all the time ‘no matter what’ is a bad business goal. In particular if those values are not consistent with your customer’s values. That is where you have screwed up.

    So what is smarter business?? Not hard. Identify your niche and then do everything you can to be really good at servicing that niche. But also understand your customer base. What business tactics and values will they tolerate? What actions will be well received by your customer base??? What will not be well received??? Clearly Backcountry got that part very wrong.

    So Backcountry go ahead and compete. Just don’t be dicks about it. Do it the old fashioned way by understanding your niche, by understanding your customer base, by providing excellent customer service, by offering fair pricing, and by doing everything you can to promote interest in the activities you service. Help the little guys regardless of what they have named their companies. If they are successful it can only help you regardless of what their company is named. And who knows, maybe they’ll grow and need your expertise and service offerings.

    All of this lawyering makes you look weak and vulnerable and predatory. If you are so wonderful as a company and for the industry and for ‘the backcountry’ then you shouldn’t have to throw your weight around. What you have done makes you look like that guy in the Whitehouse and his various enablers. Insecure, weak, greedy, spiteful and unhealthy. Not good for you.

    In closing. You DO NOT own the backcountry. You are simply a provide of stuff people use to enjoy the Backcountry. Understand that. Frankly, you are the ones who need to rename your company. That would be smart business. We’ll see how smart you are . . .

    Tom A.

  15. Kind of a bummer to see all the vitriol, I really feel like we are not seeing the full story.

    The main problem I have with your response John is that Backcountry sells a hell of a lot more that “widgets”–they have been slowly building an outerwear brand for products they design themselves (NOT only the cobrands w flylow et. al you have previously seen). Not cool that this was left out just to support your argument. I imagine BC would want to retain the ability to expand into lots of other aspects of outdoor gear with their own (again read: not cobranded) product.

    The story being missed here is that trademark law is fucking stupid, and REQUIRES companies with these kinds of ambitions to aggressively pursue their trademark in order to get approval for it in the first place. In other words you will be denied the right to your own trademark, no matter how long you’ve had it, unless you can prove that you’ve done your due diligence legally to secure everything you can ahead of time. (My admittedly loose understanding). My point is it’s nowhere near as black and white as this article and detractors have made it out to be.

    Let’s do our research on the US legal system, and trademark law in particular. Or at least get the opinion of a trademark law expert that might understand more than surface level knowledge about the issue. And maybe direct our vitriol in THAT direction rather than singling out one brand that has probably, on some level, been forced into this kind of action in the first place. As a huge brand, if they don’t act preemptively to protect their marks they open themselves up to future lawsuits from the “little guy” brands we’re claiming to champion here, the minute they aren’t so little anymore–so yeah they could do the “right” thing and never send C&Ds to anyone, but there is huge risk potential there for a company this big and its employees.

    Another issue is non-disclosure agreements, which are pretty standard in just about every case of this you’ll ever see…this probably has a LOT to do with the vagueness of the responses from BC and is also, I’d imagine, why you’re not hearing anything publicly from Backcountry Babes or any of the other brands that they’ve reached agreements with amicably…you cant say anything, even if its to defend yourself.

    FWIW would love to see a follow up after you have maybe reached out to BC directly and gotten answers to some of the issues you have more specifically–I really dont believe they’re the evil corporate entity they’re being made out to be.

    • Just to add…wondering if most of the commenters/detractors would feel just as strongly about a brand like REI. REI makes EVERYTHING from tents, apparel, camp chairs water bottles….I’d be willing to bet they had to go just as hard to secure the trademarks to produce ANY of that product…

      • I would not hold myself out as a trademark law expert, but my understanding is that it is relevant whether a reasonable person could be confused that the good or service is coming from the trademark holder and not an unaffiliated third party (in fact, the first google hit suggests potential for confusion is a requirement). Applying that test to “Backcountry Babes” I think the trademark fails the test because I would assume “Backcountry Babes” is either a porn site or a guiding service/class for women skiers and in neither case do I immediately assume affiliation with backcountry.com.

        “REI Babes” does make me think of an affiliation with REI, because REI is not a term in common use outside of the store. “Patagonia Babes” is somewhere in the middle and I might think it was affiliated with Patagonia or I might assume it was a regional group, so that’s a bit of a harder case.

        It is true that part of why I have that association for REI and Patagonia is that those brands have been more successful at branding. I understand that it is possible that “backcountry” could become, with a lot of marketing dollars, synonymous with the website in my head. However, because backcountry is a term in common use out of contexts associated with the brand, notably unlike Patagonia because I very rarely discuss the South American region, I would somewhat prefer the term stay neutral and non-commercial. Moreover, I would argue backcountry.com becomes more deserving of the trademark if they create that association in my head and as it does not yet exist, I do not think society should give backcountry.com legal remedies premised upon having built the reputation it has not as of yet.

        I appreciate that there is some chance that backcountry.com is obligated to defend the use of “backcountry” in the name of random companies to keep the right to develop a full clothing line, but that really isn’t the primary business of the company as it stands.

  16. Weak. My business was threatened by a similar suit about ten years ago, though in a different industry. In times like these, it’s always good to use the wisdom from the past and in this case I quote from the classic film Animal House, ‘don’t get mad….get even’. There are plenty of other retailers out there offering the same items (see your local shop or that other online giant with a three lettered name). Give them your hard-earned dollars. It’s not personal, Backcountry.com, it’s just business.

  17. I think backcunt.com should reimburse all the firms they bullied for the rebranding costs. Unbelievable story…. hope they file chapter 11 just in time for Xmas. F U D bags!

  18. As the owner of a small business (~$1M revenue) that has the same general name as competitors hundreds of times larger (think: we all have a specific “media” in our business titles) , and who has endured the very big dog businesses simply walking in and buying the business away from us at dollar figures that could never be rationalized, just so we’d be pushed out of the equation, I understand, at a gut level — ie., at a gut punch level — how disappointing and offensive and threatening this is for the companies that bc.com targeted. In our case, it was so blatant that FTC interviewed us several times (to no avail, of course). I’m well aware that my huge competitors could well fling that same exact legal threat shit on me that bc.com did, and I could never defend myself against them. As a guy who’s also spent tens of thousands of dollars (conservatively) at bc.com over the last 15 or more years, I’m really disappointed and kinda shocked. It’s a candy-ass, tight-ass, asshole-bully way to conduct business. They over-reached, to say the least, and right now the CEO’s apology seems more of the “I’m sorry we got caught” or “yeah, but” variety. A good CEO can’t possibly know all the details and activities of a large company, but he will absolutely know that these legal actions are being conducted. He’s in that loop, for certain. I also understand and appreciate the great American success story that bc.com is, how many people they employ and manufacturers they support, and how fast that can all be heavily damaged or destroyed. I’m always willing to forgive, and bc.com would be well-advised to withdraw their bullshit actions (I’m sure there a few blatant rip-off actions; that’s different). I don’t need to see them have their noses rubbed in it, pay fines, or throw money at various pet causes. I don’t need to see them kiss a bunch of people’s asses; that does nothing for me. But it could’ve been me on the receiving end in a different business, and I know firsthand that a lot of decent business owners lost a lot of sleep and were threatened and punished simply for competing against the big dog. And I just can’t abide by that. For now, for the next few years, starting this Christmas season, I’m taking a break from backcountry.com. I’m sure there are thousands of us times thousands of dollars annually. It’s gonna hurt.

  19. Those of you who are now defending bc.com can not really be serious. It sounds more like you’re looking for a way to ease your conscience about wanting to save yourself some cash on outdoor stuff. If so, hey, whatever helps you sleep at night.
    This article said it best. They showed their true colors. Everything after that fact is spin doctoring.

  20. Great Response Jonathan

    Also some great info from some in here on the difference between this and the actions of Patagonia or Specialized (though we should be evaluating those things as well and make sure we are supporting businesses and entities that match up with our values and those relationships should be reevaluated from time to time.

    BCDC has made some good initial steps to make reparations for their egregious repeated behaviors, but like Jonathan has said these are steps, and until the make right what they have screwed up on, I will continue to withhold my business from them and if and when they have adequately set things right, I will still be selective in what I look to them for.

    I’ve since removed and covered up any mountain goats that I had placed on my gear/personal items. And I’m far more interested in giving my business to those who run their companies in a manner that fits with the values and ethos of the community I belong to, It isn’t going to be about where I can get the best deal, if I can get a great deal while still supporting great companies that “get it” cool, if I have to pay a bit extra in order to give my business to those that do “get it” fine, I would rather do that than throw money at those who don’t have a clue, and for the time being BCDC still doesn’t have a clue

  21. Has Blister Reached out to BCDC for their input on this subject?
    (outside of your interpretation of their litigation actions)
    Disclaimer: I have not purchased any products (not and snarky wordings like Widgets from them ether)..
    P a u l

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