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Social media explosion over Specialized's Roubaix lawsuit

Published December 9, 2013

COCHRANE, Alberta (BRAIN) — A Canadian retailer says Specialized Bicycle is suing him over his use of the name Roubaix, which Specialized has trademarked in Canada.

Dan Richter, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, has operated Cafe Roubaix Bicycle Studio for several years and also sells a Cafe Roubaix wheel and rim. 

"I had assumed I could not register Roubaix as a trade mark as it is a geographical location well known in cycling, not to mention the wide-spread use of the term Roubaix throughout the industry," Richter said in a press release sent out Saturday. "I thought I could freely use Roubaix ... To be informed I cannot use the name is devastating.  I invested my life savings, military severance pay, as well as all my Veteran's Affairs award for my illness into Café Roubaix."

Richter's situation was covered by the Calgary Herald on Saturday and his story went viral, attracting attention on social media and websites across the industry over the weekend. 

A Calgary Herald story Monday said that Richter initially was resigned to changing the name of his store, but after an outpouring of support over the weekend, he is reconsidering.

"There were lawyers offering to take up his case pro bono, cycling fans raising money on his behalf, Twitter users organizing boycotts against Specialized, and hundreds of others who placed orders for his products. He quickly sold out of Café Roubaix T-shirts, and is hurrying to print more," the Herald's Tom Babin reported. 

Larry Koury, the managing director of Specialized Canada Inc., told the Herald that the company is defending its trademark — which is registered in Canada but not in the U.S.

“A simple trademark search would have prevented this,” Koury emailed. “We are required to defend or lose our trademark registration.”

A spokesman for Specialized's U.S. office said the company would likely release a statement on the situation later Monday.

Specialized licenses the Roubaix name in the U.S. from ASI, owner of the Fuji, Breezer and Kestrel brands, said Patrick Cunnane, president of ASI.

"ASI owns the Roubaix trademark in the USA," Cunnane said. "ASI purchased the Fuji and Roubaix (and many other) trademarks from the Japanese owners of the Fuji brand when ASI was formed to purchase the company in 1998.  Fuji uses the Roubaix mark worldwide and has since 1987. ASI licenses the trademark to Specialized," he said.

A look at some of the social media response to the story over the weekend:

 

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