Can a Bike Company own the Name of A French Town?

If you haven’t noticed I really believe in sticking up for what I believe to be right. I learned of something today that has simply blown my mind, Specialized has some how trademarked “Roubaix” which is the name of a town in France. The town is famous worldwide for the Paris -Roubaix bicycle race, a grueling spring classic. Famous for it’s rough cobble stone sections, rain, snow, cold and injuries it is perhaps the toughest race in road cycling.

Well, some how Specialized has managed to trademark the name of a town that has been used in bike culture for years before Specialized existed. Not only that, they are threatening to sue a bike shop owner if he doesn’t change the name of his shop, http://blogs.calgaryherald.com/2013/12/07/war-veteran-forced-to-change-bike-shops-name-after-threat-from-u-s-bike-giant-specialized/

In a short google search I found a Roubaix Bicycles in Greeley Colorado, a Fuji Roubaix bicycle, quite a few tires with the name “Roubaix” in them, handlebar tape named Roubaix and Santini Ray Roubaix Road Bike LS Thermal Winter Baselayer Black! I believe Rock Shox used to have a Roubaix fork (short travel road bike fork) and bet there is a Roubaix Bikes in the town of Roubaix.

Turns out Specialized owns the word “Epic” too and has flexed their  muscles quite a few times enforcing their right to various words they own. Even a 150 year old nickname for Portland, Stumptown used by Mountain Cycles was fought against by Specialized who claimed the name could confuse the public into thinking it was Stumpjumper. The legal costs of Specialized’s law suit against Mountain Cycle may have been a big cause of their failure. More on Epic and other cases of Specialized flexing their muscles on questionable trademark lawsuits here: http://www.themountainbikelife.com/2013/12/whats-in-name.html

Well what do you think? Should an American company be able to trademark the name of a French Town that has been used in the cycling industry since before Specialized existed?

12/10/13 Update, turns out Specialized doesn’t even own the trademark “Roubaix”, Fuji bikes does and they licensed the name to Specialized in an agreement to allow Fuji to use Specialized’s Horst Link suspension. Which, in my humble opinion make Specialized look not only mean, but pretty dumb too!  “We are in the process of notifying Specialized that they did not have the authority, as part of our license agreement, to stop Daniel Richter … from using the Roubaix name,” Cunnane said in an email to BRAIN*. “While ASI does have the authority to object to Mr. Richter’s use of the name and while we at ASI understand the importance of protecting our bicycle model names, we believe that Mr. Richter did not intend for consumers to confuse his brick-and-mortar establishment or his wheel line with our Roubaix road bike. And we believe consumers are capable of distinguishing his bike shop and wheel line from our established bikes.”  * quoted from Bicycle Retailer Article, read the whole article here: http://www.bicycleretailer.com/north-america/2013/12/09/asi-says-calgary-bike-shop-can-use-roubaix-name#.UqddqsSsiSp

 

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