By Nigel Wynn
The owner of Cafe Roubaix in Canada has come to an agreement with Specialized Bicycles to allow him to continue using the 'Roubaix' name at the end of a trademark dispute that set social media alight at the weekend.
The story started when Dan Richter, owner of the Cafe Roubaix Bicycle Studio in Cochrane, Canada, received a legal letter from Specialized's lawyers requesting that he change the name of his business as Specialized owns the trademark to 'Roubaix' or they would sue.
Roubaix is a town in northern France that hosts the finish of the one-day classic, Paris-Roubaix. It is also the name of a line of road bikes made by Specialized, who lease the trademark of the 'Roubaix' name in the USA from Advanced Sports International (ASI). ASI own the worldwide trademark for 'Roubaix' and has a Roubaix model in its Fuji bike range.
Although the letter was received months ago, Richter's story was only revealed by the Calgary Herald on Friday. By Saturday, thousands of users on social media sites Twitter and Facebook had spread the story, with almost unamimous support for Richter, who had started the business in 2012 whilst simultaneously dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder after serving with the military in Afghanistan. Richter lacked the funds to fight the case.
There were widespread calls for Specialized to back down, and several users changed their screen names to include the word 'Roubaix' in protest. Many questioned how a company can register the name of a town in France as a trademark. The emphasis on the case moved from trademark infringement to public relations.
"Over the weekend, we have received over 3500 emails, hundreds of phone calls and messages, how many #s and @s? Tweets? Do numbers go that high? Our little studio is just barely 900 sqft and cycling fans, cyclists, Velomintus, industry leaders & big shots, pro riders, and icons have all made their voice heard," said Richter via the cafe's Facebook page.
Throughout, Specialized has remained publicly quiet on the issue, posting nothing on their Twitter page in reply to the hundreds of questions posed by users. The CEO of ASI, Patrick Cunnane, meanwhile, spoke to Bicycle Retailer and Industry News and told them that they 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."
"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."
Then on Monday, Richter confirmed that he has spoken directly with Specialized founder Mike Sinyard. "I had a great conversation with (Specialized founder and chairman) Mike Sinyard today, and I am happy to let everyone know that things will be working out fine," said Richter. "We thank you for your continued support. You have all been so very awesome to us!"
Photo from Cafe Roubaix
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