‘We Made a Mistake’: Backcountry Responds to Public Debacle

Following days of vehement backlash from angry consumers, Backcountry today released a statement about its ‘backcountry’ trademark lawsuits against small brands.

Nearly one week after reports revealed Backcountry.com had filed numerous lawsuits against other brands for using the word “backcountry” in their name, the Utah-based online retail giant finally broke its silence.

“We have heard your feedback and concerns, and understand we fumbled in how we pursued trademark claims recently. We made a mistake,” CEO Jonathan Nielsen said in a statement posted to the brand’s website. “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.”

Nielsen went on to say that contrary to reports, the brand, in fact, was not “interested in owning the word ‘backcountry’ or completely preventing anyone else from using it.”

Nielsen also said Backcountry would drop its lawsuit against Marquette Backcountry Ski. Marquette and founder David Ollila were perhaps the most visible and outspoken opponents of Backcountry’s legal actions. Read the full statement below.

Backcountry Speaks Out: Letter From CEO

A Letter to Our Community

Dear Backcountry Community,

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

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.

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

We only want what’s best for the whole community and we want every person and business in it to thrive. Backcountry has never been interested in owning the word “backcountry” or completely preventing anyone else from using it. But we clearly misjudged the impact of our actions.

We understand that this step we’ve taken may not be enough for some of you. 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. We intend to learn from this and become a better company.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Nielsen, CEO Backcountry

Backcountry Sues ‘Backcountry’ Brands Over Trademark

Last week, The Colorado Sun broke the news that Backcountry.com last year filed to trademark the word “backcountry.” That led Backcountry to begin suing and issuing cease-and-desist orders to small brands that also used “backcountry” in their names.

This included brands like Marquette Backcountry Ski, Backcountry Denim Co., Weston Backcountry, and even Backcountry Babes — a women-focused avalanche safety course.

Backcountry Boycott mountain goat
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While some, like Backcountry Babes, managed to settle with the 23-year-old online retailer to keep their name, others did not. Backcountry Denim had to change its name to BDCo., and Backcountry eBikes had to rebrand as Bakcou eBikes.

Jenny Verrochi, owner of Backcountry Nitro Coffee, told GearJunkie Backcountry served her with a cease-and-desist, forced it to change its website and name, and cost it “thousands of dollars.” Verrochi’s brand is now Wild Barn Coffee.

According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Backcountry has filed numerous lawsuits between 2017 and this year.

#BoycottBackcountry Backlash

Following news of the lawsuits, angry consumers swarmed Twitter to denounce the move. The hashtags #boycottbackcountry and #backcountryboycott took off, with numerous angry tweets by users swearing they’d never shop at Backcountry again. Some consumers chided the retailer for targeting cottage businesses that, in many instances, were too small to mount a significant legal defense.

This led to its own Boycott Backcountry Twitter account, and subsequent website, urging Backcountry faithful to tear off Backcountry’s trademark goat sticker, which arrives with virtually every purchase.

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 Ski 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.”

Adam Ruggiero
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Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie - from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.

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