The founder and owner of Specialized bicycles, Mike Sinyard, has made it a point to apologize to the owner of the Café Roubaix bike shop in Cochrane, Alberta – in person.
Several days ago a story broke, wherein a small bike shop owner in Canada came under legal threat by Specialized for using the word ‘Roubaix" in it’s name. However, Specialized’s action turned into a public relations disaster for the company, as an outpouring of public support for the shop owner ensued over the last several days. Moreover, the company suffered further humiliation, when Advanced Sports International, who owns the copyright to ‘Roubaix’, weighed in on the matter in support of the shop owner.
Following days of criticism, Sinyard sought to calm the storm, by meeting with the owner of the Cafe Roubaix bike shop, Dan Richter, and resolve the matter personally.
"I flew up there and I broke some bread with him. Things are now solved. I definitely feel sorry on how we acted, I guess I would say I feel ashamed of it. It’s not what I like and I told him that, face to face. I think what’s really important is the context and how this happened."
Sinyard explained that Specialized initially felt it was necessary to address the issue with Richter over his use of Roubaix, because of concerns about copyright infringement – and Specialized’s actions were not personally motivated.
"To explain just a little bit, we have a lot of trademarks all around the world and we have a law firm that watches them. One of the things in the last five years, and especially the last two years has been the number of fake products with Specialized on. It’s astronomical. We have a number of people who just track down these fake products.
"That’s not what happened here but the law firm saw it and saw there was a guy selling wheels with Roubaix on there. I didn’t know about this until Saturday morning when I got back from a ride and I tried to find out about it. I didn’t do anything until the Monday and by then the thing had gone large. Again on context one of the biggest problems, and Dan doesn’t fit into this, is fake products," he said.
Since Richter was not attempting to sell counterfeit products, but was rather being targeted for the name of his business, Sinyard explained the misguided action against the shop owner.
"I still remember losing sleep about this guy who submitted a lawsuit to us and his face was completely destroyed and teeth knocked out," he said.
"I felt sick about it and thought, how could our bike break? He sent the bike back and our engineers quickly realised it wasn’t ours, but you could hardly tell. Ever since then I’ve been rabid to protect the riders and our dealers who are selling the product."
Sinyard said that the actions taken by his company clearly hurt the brand. And, changes would be made as to how the company addresses future trademark disputes.
"So did this one get out of hand? Absolutely and there’s no excuse. I own it, I’m responsible for it. I have a big responsibility, and I love cycling and want to do great things for the sport and was this one mismanaged, it was. I take responsibility but as soon as I called him on the phone I realised he was the real deal and we hit it off. I think he feels that it’s been treated fairly and him and I relate," Sinyard explained.
"I just need to look at things more carefully but I would say we’ve become pretty aggressive with this sort of thing in the last few years. This counterfeit stuff is where the criminals have started to shift to from drugs because it’s actually harder to track them and the consequences are less."
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