A Special(ized) Clarification

Someone I have a great deal of respect for posted on Facebook this morning a cautionary thread against “jumping on the bandwagon” in going after companies like Specialized.  I think that’s a valid concern generally, but I also see the value of the bandwagon from time to time.  Here’s my response to his point.

 I appreciate what you’re saying, and I appreciate that Specialized has now been responsive. I also greatly appreciate that Mike Sinyard has done the right thing and become personally involved in this issue. Please note that–nothing else I say will diminish those feelings–I truly appreciate that they’re now doing the right thing. It gives me confidence in Specialized, and makes me think that they are taking the issue seriously.

That said, I believe the crowd response to this issue has been appropriate.

1) Had the public not reacted how they did, all indications are that Specialized would have continued down the path they were on, going after Cafe Roubaix and Epix Gear. In particular, do you really think Mike Sinyard would have personally apologized–or gone to Canada to talk to Cafe Roubaix–if the public had not gotten involved? My guess is that Specialized would have pursued their claims vigorously, and Cafe Roubaix would have been crushed. I don’t think that is the right outcome, and I believe the public response was appropriate and required.

2) Blaming outside attorneys is a non-starter for me. Attorneys work for, and are directed by, the client. Specialized is undoubtedly paying millions a year for attorneys. If they can’t control those attorneys, they need to change something, dramatically and quick.

3) A concern about counterfeit gear is legitimate. It’s one of the reasons I generally don’t buy bike stuff online (the other reason being the significance of local bike shops like Cafe Roubaix). And perhaps Specialized’s attention was drawn to Cafe Roubaix because of counterfeit gear. I’ll take Mike at his word about that. But Specialized wasn’t drawn to Epix Gear because of counterfeit concerns. They weren’t drawn to Epic Designs because of counterfeit concerns. They weren’t drawn to many of the claims they’ve pursued because of counterfeit concerns. So in some ways, that part of their response seems a bit disingenuous. It’s the best possible face to put on their efforts to be a trademark troll.

I’ll go back to the very start again. I believe the public response was necessary, and all of the bandwagon hopping was required to make Specialized see the issue. I also believe that the now see the issue and are responding appropriately. Whether they see the issue because they see the right/wrong of the situation, or whether they see the issue because they’re concerned about the impact that bad PR will have on their company is an interesting question, but as long as their response remains appropriate, it’s kind of irrelevant. I congratulate them on their response, and caution that this is just the first step in their rehabilitation. If this issue just goes silently into the night without a change in their culture, we’ll be back at this in 6-12 months. I appreciate Mike Sinyard’s words, and take him at his word that he takes responsibility and will make changes. And I hope he does, because all of the bikes in the world are made better by Specialized’s design work, whether by adoption of Specialized technology or by competition therewith. So at the end of the day, we’re on the same page about what’s happening now, but we see things a little differently on how we got this far.

It is my sincere hope that future posts about Specialized will be positive–going back to talking about their great designs and innovative features.  We’re now returning to regular bike content.

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