Last week, news broke that Backcountry is suing dozens of brands that use the word ‘backcountry’ in their name. And customers are outraged.
The outdoor community banded together this week on social media to take on Backcountry. This came after news spread that the 23-year-old online retailer began suing smaller businesses for using the term “backcountry,” which the brand trademarked in 2018, according to The Colorado Sun.
Backcountry hit several brands with either lawsuits or cease-and-desist orders, including Weston Backcountry, Marquette Backcountry Skis, and even Backcountry Babes — a women-focused avalanche safety course.
Since The Sun broke the news last week, customers and even Backcountry faithful have swarmed Twitter to denounce the move. The hashtags #boycottbackcountry and #backcountryboycott return numerous angry tweets and even images of people ripping off Backcountry’s trademark goat sticker, which arrives with virtually every purchase. Some consumers chided the retailer for targeting cottage businesses that, in many instances, were too small to mount a significant legal defense.
— Joe (@seosmh) November 3, 2019
— Scott Rohrig (@scottrohrig) November 4, 2019
There is such a push for inclusivity in the #outdoorindustry right now, and this is just trying to strong-arm other companies, clubs, education groups OUT because @backcountry has more resources. Bye bye!#backcountryboycott
— Cianna Wyshnytzky 🦆 🐡 (@cia_wysh) November 2, 2019
I’m going to take a hike into the backcountry. Are you going to sue me? #backcountryboycott
— Kevin Haynes (@Kevin_B_Haynes) November 4, 2019
And since the story broke, a group launched the Boycott Backcountry Facebook page, which has grown to more than 11,000 members in less than one week. As one commenter noted, if each member spent just $100 a year at Backcountry, the combined buying power of Boycott Backcountry stands at more than $1 million.
Support for ‘Backcountry’ Brands
While much of the discussion around Backcountry’s legal action has been condemnation, some have focused their efforts on supporting other brands affected by the move.
For example, Wheelie — a creative agency based in Denver — offered to help any businesses “forced to change [their] name” with rebranding services free of charge.
Others, meanwhile, launched a GoFundMe to offset the legal costs of Marquette Backcountry Skis and others being sued by Backcountry.com. The campaign also pledged to donate all leftover funds to support Big City Mountaineers to “encourage accessibility and appreciation of the backcountry.”
Backcountry Sues ‘Backcountry’ Brands Over Trademark
Backcountry did not immediately respond to email requests for comment. But according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Utah-based retailer has filed numerous lawsuits between 2017 and this year.
Backcountry is owned by private-equity firm TSG Consumer, which has offices in New York, London, and San Francisco. It invests and buys consumer companies and boasts the slogan “We Build Brands People Love.” The firm had approximately $5 billion in equity capital under management as of December 2015.
David Ollila, founder of Snapperhead Inventions, the manufacturer of Marquette Backcountry Skis, said Backcountry first challenged his company several months ago at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The situation has escalated, and Ollila is fighting for the right to retain his trademark.
“I was served in federal court about 2 months ago,” he said. “It appears the effort is being driven by their private-equity firm and its legal team.”
According to The Sun, many independent brands have opted to settle under undisclosed terms. Backcountry Babes, for example, will retain its name after reaching an agreement with Backcountry.
Others, however, have not had the same luck. Backcountry eBikes had to rebrand to Bakcou eBikes after it was sued in February. And Backcountry Denim Co. also had to rebrand after a settlement hearing this year. It is now BDCo.
GearJunkie spoke with another small brand that did not want to be named in this story. Backcountry served its owner with a cease-and-desist, forced it to change its website and name, and cost it “thousands of dollars.”
“My feeling is that nobody should have the right to the term ‘backcountry,’” BDCo. founder Jordan Phillips told The Sun. “It’s like trying to trademark ‘road’ or ‘beach’ or ‘mountain.'”
We will update this story as it develops.