Sunday, December 08, 2013

What's really going on with Specialized and the "Roubaix" scandal

First of all, I'm not a lawyer. The analysis below is based on common sense and having a few lawyers in the family. If you're not familiar with the scandal in question, visit Cyclingnews, Velonews or Google it.

Basically, what's happening here is Specialized is defending a dubious trademark. It's quite understandable what they're doing from a business and legal perspective. Trademarking the name of a French city is dubious at best, but they must defend this trademark or lose it. “We are required to defend or lose our trademark registration.” They don't dare go after any of the many, many cycling businesses that use "Roubaix" in their business or product names that have any money at all, because if the case went to court they would lose, and lose the patent. What they do, just like patent trolls, is threaten to sue small businesses that are naive and feel they can't afford to defend a lawsuit, and use the mere threat to make them roll over. Cafe Roubaix Bicycle Studio is a perfect target. "Richter says his lawyer thinks they have a good case to make, but the fight could cost upwards of $150,000 in legal fees, a price too steep for his small company." Given his battles with post-traumatic stress disorder, it's clear that such a fight would be stressful for the owner.

This is, of course, unconscionable for a moral perspective, but logical from a business perspective. However, as consumers, we also make decisions about cycling products to buy. Choose wisely. Don't choose Specialized.