An Open Letter to Mike Sinyard

If you’ve been isolated from cycling news for the past 48 hours, a story has broken regarding Specialized flexing its litigious muscles and threatening a bike shop up in Canada, run by a veteran of the Afghanistan War, over the name of the shop.  What’s the name of the shop?  Cafe Roubaix.  That, apparently, is viewed by Specialized as infringing upon their use of the name Roubaix for the line of bikes.  There’s been a lot of bike-specific media coverage on it, such as this Velonews article.  There’s also been some good blogging about the subject, explaining why Specialized’s claims are ill-founded.  In addition, there’s been a lot of angry Facebooking and Tweeting, talking about how Specialized is offending customers, and turning people against their brand by, ironically enough, vigorously defending their perceived branding.  There was also this amusing tweet:

That guy.  What a kidder!

There have also been some amusing graphics generated on the inter-webs.

photo 1 photo

Here’s where the letter to Mr. Sinyard starts.

First off, you’re losing this public relations battle.  If you cannot acknowledge that the current path you’re pursuing with Cafe Roubaix is a mistake, then you can stop reading now.  It is a mistake.  I’m not talking about the legal analysis of your claims–I’m talking about the direction of your brand, and what you’re doing to your company.  I have a great deal of respect for what you’ve done with Specialized.  You are the proverbial American Dream.  You started a company with just your sweat and effort, and have created a hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars-per-year enterprise.  That’s amazing by any measure.  And you are doubtless proud, and protective, of that enterprise.  I understand that fully.  But somewhere along the lines, part of your company came off the tracks.

The past couple of years have been a progression of some bad legal decisions.  Going after the Stumptown mountain bike because it sounds like Stumpjumper?  Going after Epic Designs (manufacturer of some amazing bike luggage, now known as Relevate Designs) because you make a like of bikes called the Epic?  Going after Epic Wheel Works in Portland, for the same reason?  And your whole tangle with Volagi–embarrassing, frankly.  Here’s a hint: when a Court says that you win, but only awards you $1 in damages…that’s the legal system telling you that you’re being a jerk.  I don’t mean that as an insult–I don’t know you personally, and have no basis from which to judge you or your personality.  But your legal department is running amok.

I don’t know if you have in-house counsel or outside counsel…or some combination thereof, but you need to get control of them, before they destroy your company.  The vast majority of bikes purchased in this country are not purchased because they are necessary for transportation.  They’re purchased as lifestyle choices–because they’re cool.  That goes doubly for your most profitable bikes–the high-end mountain and road bikes that no one really needs to own.  People buy those because they’re cool, and fast, and fun.  But try as you may to convince the public otherwise, there’s nothing that special about a Specialized, just as there’s nothing that special about a Trek, et. al.  What I mean by that is simple: from a “doing the group ride” perspective, any current high-end road bike will perform admirably.  If you took away my current road bike and put me on a Venge, I wouldn’t be measurably faster or slower.  Much of what goes into the purchase of a high-end bike is buying into the ethos and culture of the manufacturer.  I love Salsa bikes in part because I love their ethos.  The same can be said for Moots.  But frankly, I am not seeing anyone lately who’s in love with Specialized as a brand.  In fact, what I am seeing is Specialized dealers tweeting that they’re just as worried about your latest decisions as the public is.  I’m seeing Specialized riders say that they’re changing brands.  I’m seeing mechanics talk about rejecting bikes that even have your tires on them.  It’s pretty bleak, Mike.

Let’s talk about Cafe Roubaix.  First, the guy that runs it is a war veteran, who can legitimately talk about using his shop to help combat his combat-induced post-traumatic stress disorder.  Does his being a veteran play into the technical legal analysis of your claim at all?  Nope.  Veteran or not, the law is the same.  Moreover, if there really was a true violation of your intellectual property rights, being a veteran would not be a defense.  But in a questionable situation, you have to know that the public is going to side with the war veteran who is the owner of a small business over a corporate giant (particularly when that corporate giant is having some very public fights over relatively petty trademark issues).  Pick your battles, and avoid losses (or pyrrhic victories).

(I mean no offense to the shop owner, and I appreciate his service.  I just think that his unique characteristics make it all the more obvious that Specialized has gone over the edge).

One way to look at this situation would be with some compassion.  Look at the owner of this small business, and realize that he doesn’t pose a threat to your brand.  There’s no likelihood of confusion–no one is going to mistake this guy for Specialized.  Let sleeping dogs lie, and let this guy run his company.  That’s a reasonable approach.

If you choose to analyze things from a purely business perspective, look at what’s happening.  Even if there was some impact on your business (there isn’t), and even if you could quantify it (you can’t), it would be miniscule.  Compare that minuscule economic impact to the incredibly damaging effect that this news is having upon your company.  The core of people who are really dedicated bikers are seeing this news nonstop.  All of their friends are using social media to talk about it.  It’s everywhere–in the worst possible way.  The cost analysis on this particular intellectual property squabble weighs heavily against pursuing it.

You’ve had a bunch of these squabbles.  You should notice a trend: the backlash is growing each time.  Every time you “pick on the little guy”, the public responds more.  Let me tell you what’s in your future: mass media coverage.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the “war veteran being sued by Specialized” story doesn’t pick up mass media this time around.  And let’s be honest: if he gets on the Today show and talks about his business being attacked, you’re sunk.  That has a tangible, hugely negative impact on you.  Regardless of right or wrong, compassion or not…pursuing this claim is going to hurt your business.  I like to think that the compassionate arguments would win out, but if they don’t, then look at the business side of this.  You can’t buy negative press this vociferous.  And if this claim doesn’t make mass media, the next one will.  Honestly, we don’t need negative cycling stories to hit mass media.  We’re still recovering from the onslaught of pro-cyclist revelations.

So let’s say you agree with me.  Let’s say you’re willing to look at other options.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you need to be aggressive in setting a new image and new tone for your company.  That has a number of steps.

First, talk to your lawyers.  My guess is that their current marching instructions are along these lines: “Be aggressive.  If you find some intellectual property out there that might even possibly be infringing, and you can write a nasty letter with a straight face, do so.  Pursue it vigorously.  Use our size and ability to be intimidating.”  For lawyers, there is a temptation to fight to win the legal battles, even when it means losing the larger war.  You need to see your legal strategy as an integral part of your public image.  You need to set a new paradigm–a new operating system for your litigators.  There will be times when you have legitimate claims to pursue, and when you do, by all means go after them.  But please exercise some common sense and discretion in determining what is and is not a threat.  (More on that below).

And if you do have to go after someone, try to do so eloquently.  Take Jack Daniels’ example.


That is a brilliant letter.  Brilliant.  It’s a win-win.  If you succeed in changing the mind of the person it’s directed to, you’ve won.  If you don’t succeed there and do end up having to go to Court, you’ve laid the groundwork that you started the process from a non-confrontational, collaborative perspective and the other guy was unreasonable.  Pure brilliance.

Second, deal with this claim.  You.  Personally.  Call the owner of the shop, apologize, and tell him that you’ve learned your lesson.  Tell him that he is free to keep his shop name, and offer to send him a custom Roubaix to ride.  Tell him that you hope he hasn’t incurred any costs, and tell him that his professional response has been illuminating for you and your company, and has helped you rethink your global strategies.  Be graceful.  Be apologetic.  Be honest.

Third, rethink your global strategies.  Specialized has a problem suing people.  Whether you think you do or not, the public believes that you do.  And for a company trying to sell products to the public, what the public thinks is reality.  So you do have a problem, and you need to acknowledge that.  You need to do something that gets the heat off of you, and makes it clear that you’re trying to be a good influence on the industry.  Here’s my suggestion: put together a committee.

Get a group of interested people.  Get some bike industry professionals…some pro cyclists…some recreational cyclists…some representatives of your company…maybe even a blogger or two.  Put them on a committee (and make them sign a nondisclosure agreement if you must).  When you have an intellectual property issue arise, your attorneys prepare a memo outlining the issue, and it goes to the committee.  They review it and make a ‘non-legal’ recommendation.  They serve as your internal jury, and your public relations conscience.  They would have told you to let Cafe Roubaix go.  They would have told you to look for opportunities like this to strengthen your brand.  Instead of sending a threatening letter, send a positive one…along the lines of “we have a claim to the Roubaix name, but we really appreciate what you are doing, and wish you the best of success.  For that reason, we are not going to assert any claims, and we look forward to sharing a place in the industry with you.”  On the other hand, if someone starts making carbon fiber road bikes and calling them the Special Venge, the committee will tell you that your claim is legit regardless of who the manufacturer of the bike is.  The idea of the committee is to make sure you’re getting an impartial, non-expert view of the situation before you commit to a public course of action.

Fourth, take accountability.  Regardless of the attorneys, the office politics, whatever else–you’ve made a career of telling others that the buck stops with you.  You need to be responsible for this situation, and as per #2 above, you need to deal with it personally.  Even if you create a committee, you still need to be personally involved and personally consulted before any cease and desist letter goes out the door.  This is a critical issue, and it’s hurting your company.  Badly.  Pay attention to it, just like you’d pay attention to your bike design and engineering.  It’s hard to convince the public that you’re a good, caring company.  It’s easy to convince the public that you’re mean.  You’re taking the easy road right now, and from what I’ve read, that’s not your style.

In the end, you get to decide how your company moves forward.  The path you’re on now is a destructive one–destructive to others, and self-destructive as well.  It’s not working.  You’re not racking up public support and legal victories.  Rethink it.  Innovate your litigation culture just as you innovate your bicycle design.  At the end of the day, if people hate what Specialized stands for, they’re going to ride someone else’s bike.  It isn’t hard for other bike companies to look nice when you’re doing such an incredible job of being the industry bully.

I wish you well.  The bike industry and my options as a consumer both benefit from competition among bike companies.  The downfall of Specialized–or even a diminution in your market and ability–would be bad for cyclists everywhere.  Think about what you’re doing.  Go back to how you would have wanted to be treated when you were in the van.  This isn’t it–it can’t be.  You can do better.  If you “win” this legal battle but lose the industry’s respect and your customer’s support, where does that leave you?


UPDATE:  Thanks for all the love, folks.  I did want to point out that Chad makes an incredible point below: what if Specialized committed to taking a portion of their legal budget and committing it to advocacy?  What better way to create a PR win out of this issue than to support the creation of some bike trails or otherwise work towards building a better bike culture?  Fantastic suggestion, Chad.


70 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Mike Sinyard

      • Specialized was only ALLOWED to use Roubaix because the folks at Fuji decided they’d like to have Specialized’s full suspension design more than a ridiculous monopoly on the name of a French town. Another foolish move on the part of the big “S”… likely not the last.

  1. I admire your ability to communicate the way you do. Awesome letter to “S”. Would be interested to hear if they respond.

  2. Excellently worded. Eloquent, convincing and spot on. Thank you for taking the time to write this. Fingers crossed that he sees the light.

  3. You nailed it. I’ve been a very loyal Specialized fan because of the way they went overboard for me on a warranty problem, but the company’s litigiousness is starting to offset that. I think I’ll see if I can let them know that.

  4. Can we get a tally of aprx lawyer fees over the years and what kind of advocacy work it could have payed for instead?

    For example: “Specialized could have built 27 miles of brand new bike path, but they sued small companies instead.”

  5. A fundamental issue that is not taken into consideration here is that Specialized does not believe in the IBD. Their business model proves this, and when you add that into the equation you can see why this dealer, and the situation revolving around it, means nothing to them. They are looking to shape a landscape where every dealer is either a Specialized concept shop, or not a shop at all. Good luck to them on that one! I will never ride one of their bikes.

    • For the last twenty years or more, Specialized has been consolidating their position in the marketplace: defending patents, opening concept stores, demanding floor-space or a percentage of certain categories from the IBD/LBS; dictating to dealers what other brands they may or may not carry. It’s all about moving product and making money — that and ego. My perspective comes from being involved in bicycle retail, wholesale, racing and travel since the early 70’s. You might think that modern companies would learn from the mistakes made by Schwinn and Raleigh so many years ago, but instead it just seems that they find new and creative ways to fail.

  6. Incredibly well written. I truly hope Sinyard reads it and has a come to Jesus moment because of what you’ve written here.

  7. Brilliant open letter. I applaud your approach, but unfortunately, this hit close to home for me. Epic wheel Works was pretty close, in Oregon, not far from my home in Victoria, Canada, but now a fellow Canadian is feeling the wrath of Specialized and I’m done. I was contemplating buying a Specialized as my ‘next’ bike. No longer. My home will be Specialized-free for life.

  8. The majority of people that are following this unfortunate series of legal battles Specialized is instigating might not understand the full situation. Large corporations typically sign a legally binding agreement with a law firm that ensures in a situation that the represented company’s trademark’s and or copyright Is infringed upon or comparitavily compromised is at no liberty to decide whether to NOT PURSUE legal action. In some cases law firms simply terminate the contract between the party’s but I would guess with a company the size of Specialized the law firm would file a lawsuit against them. In my opinion I think that’s cruel of the law firm but in a court of law its justified with an arguement of “loss of potential profits” and after all, some lawyers are in it for money and not human kind. I also wanted to add that I’ve been freeriding for over ten years and the absolute best bike I’ve ever ridden was my specialized demo nine, there technology and engineering is years ahead of its time and the progression of the sport has always relyed upon technology and sponsered riders…… Specialized has supported both of those aspects and there is a lot of people that appreciate that including myself. I hope the company can publicly rebuild their image and learn to be less mercurial.

    • Yeah, no. You’re wrong. Such a contract would be unlawful in the United States. An attorney cannot enter into a contract that binds the attorney to ignore the client’s direction. You’re just incorrect about this one. Sorry. No two ways about it.

  9. I’m thrown off by this whole affair, i’m seeing both sides of the coin. We have a bike shop with a request for a name change due to copyright/trademarking. A large company sending the request and not much in between. Being from the UK we don’t have the same viewing for a ‘vet’, people were simply in the forces, it carries less sympathy, less weight. Is it destroying cycling, not so much. It’s amazing how us in the western world will stand up and unite for something so trivial and create a united front (echoes of Egypt and Mubarak) yet we have an unwillingness to do so against issues that really matter. I think the Specialized response is heavy and doubtless written without any thought to public scrutiny (how wrong they were) Likewise i think the bike shop owner is playing the victim facade rather well. Its a name change, would cafe Pyrenee cycles be so bad.
    Reprinting a dozen t-shirts a new domain name perhaps and some signage (the other associated business collateral). In marketing terms this very young business is now experiencing the type of reach that only true international brands can enjoy. Harking back Specialized have done a hell of a lot for cycling, they helped shape aspects of it, they have supported some of the best riders and grown to be a useful superpower in the sport. I’m disappointed in Specialized’s heavy handed approach but also the subsequent portrayal of a brand i have followed since i was a boy (the likes of Jason Mcroy were my heroes). My stand is mixed, more to the point i don’t really have one, there is no side to take. Is this a victimless crime, no, but the victim is neither Cafe Roubaix nor Specialized. It’s us, Cafe Roubaix is a money making business as is Specialized, the big S is the devil we know, warts and all. If Cafe Roubaix having built a huge brand on the back of this adventure is sat here in 5 years time on a multi million turnover business then where do we stand. Will he be wiping out the little guy.

    • I agree with much of your sentiment–from a factual/legal perspective, the shop owner’s status as a veteran is irrelevant. That said, Specialized has a public relations problem and needs to choose its battles more wisely. This is not an example of choosing battles wisely.

      Moreover, what gets everyone’s goat is the fact that this fight is over the name Roubaix. Many cyclists feel that Roubaix is a part of cycling, and not the unique intellectual property of one company–particularly since other bike companies have used the marque for other bikes over a period of decades.

      The victim here is Cafe Roubaix in the short term, but unless Big S changes its approach, it will be the victim in the long run.

      • Why doesn’t Specialized offer to buyout the shop with the funds they would be using to litigate?

      • I’m not sure that’s a reasonable suggestion–that they have to buy out anyone that they may have a dispute with. There are a lot of measures short of that which could both protect their intellectual property rights AND not adversely impact their public image.

      • Specialized should have offered to offset the cost of the name change. That would have gone a long way to demostrate their good will.

  10. The big corp. are all similar in their view/take on this. Whether it’s Trek, Specialized or Giant for that matter. This is more a failure of the system. If you read the bicycling puff piece on Sinyard he pretty much says he will defend his company his brand to the teeth. He almost implies it is a with me or against me type of vibe. Look at the Volagi law suit. Look at the concept stores. But why no grousing when Shimano cut/stream lined their supply chain? How many people spouting from behind their keyboards go internet for bike related purchases and not LBS? Is this just a gang mentality to jump on Spesh. or are people willing and ready for change.
    How about this: next time you bang your rear mech. up hesitate for a moment from going on ebay, pricepoint or some other online etailer and run down the LBS. Then when they don’t have the one you want, latest and greatest in stock but tell you that it will be in by the endm of the week and it will be 10.00 more then online thank them for ordering it for you and be happy the independent LBS still exists.

    • CHSAD, I agree with much of your sentiment. Read my other posts–I’m a strong supporter of local bike shops, and I do not do my bike purchasing online (not even for components), as I recognize the need to support local bike shops.

      That said, I don’t think all big corporations are the same. Specialized has gone too far in one direction, and needs to pull it back. You don’t hear about Trek or Giant having petty intellectual property disputes–its endemic to Specialized. Whether that’s right or wrong–whether they are correct in pursuing their claims or not–the public relations consequences of going down this path will soon outweigh any possible benefit to their brand. They need to recognize that.

  11. Pingback: Roubaix Squabble - Pallas Athena Bicycles

  12. Pingback: Hats Off to Cafe Roubaix | JustAnotherCyclist

  13. Love this so much. While I own several high-end, Specialized bikes, this kind of needless litigation shocks my loyalty to a brand. I do understand that veteran status is irrelevant in a court of law, but it is not when it comes to the emotions of the consumer. I love the sample letter from Jack Daniels. Specialized should definitely be the bigger man (so to speak) and I should probably switch to Cervelo and start drinking Jack Daniels.

  14. Good article. But I am a fan of the company. They make some of the lightest, fastest, durable, and most technological-forward thinking bikes and related product out there. Questionable legal strategy? No. Bad PR strategy? Maybe, but I’m confident that they will respond appropriately. There are simply a lot of haters out there for the guy on top. It’s easy to root for the little guy.

    • Specialized honestly has no leg-up in the industry in terms of technical
      Bike aspects. To say they have the lightest bikes is a joke. They have never had the lightest bike and quite honestly have never been close. Fastest is a relative term and not one that should be used in describing a bike that is so painfully similar to other bikes on the market. Speed has more to do with the physical conditioning and skill of the rider. You could even add fit into the equation. But, an argument stating a Specialized is faster then a Cervelo, Volagi, Trek, Moots, a Seven, etc would be taking the power from the rider and giving it to the bike. A true mistake…
      Durability…. Do you work in the industry? Do you know Specialized’s warranty rate as a percentage of their whole sales? I do! It’s not bad, but they have absolutely no edge over other brands in the industry on this topic. It’s boringly average.
      Cutting edge and forward thinking?? You mean all the ideas, names and designs they steal from all the small cutting edge brands? This is typical practice in the industry when you work for a large corp. specialized is not so unique as they are saavy. They see a great idea and they work to put it in their lineup.
      You scorn people for using their voice and intellect to rise up against a company that shows a lot of ill will towards an industry and consumer base that has been VERY kind to them. Specialized has a lot to be thankful for. They should be VERY thankful they have guys like you who have such a hard-on for a large corporate ‘business’ (of all things) that they’ll look the opposite way when said business uses nasty bully tactics to frivolously push individuals around. No thanks! I expect businesses to operate in the most upstanding way that aligns with all the polished rhetoric they describe themselves as possessing

      • You got me Bill. Uncle. Your persuasive writing style and sense of business ethics is far superior to mine. I give up. And I don’t know shit about bikes or riding. But this and you won’t change my buying habits. I guess I am just a slave to large corporations and their savvy marketing departments. Damn the Big “S” for being so business-minded.

  15. You have no idea how much Specialized does for the sport. You have no idea how small a percentage this blog, forum posters and anyone reading this represent. You really think you will get a response? And how exactly does any of this effect any of you personally? Imagine the world of cycling without Specialized? A lot less pro teams, a lot less product innovation and that much smaller the industry. Think about the big picture and put aside your personal feelings. This is a 40 year company that has grown and innovated beyond belief and you are ready to abandon that in a heart beat? OK, but I’d hate to tell you how the rest of the world works. Get off your high chair soap box and go start your own company, support this fragile sport/industry, build it up over 40 years time and then you can have a voice with regards to how that business is run.

    • Some challenging thoughts here, cL. I addressed them in a separate post that I just put up. Please be clear: I’m not advocating that others should abandon Specialized. I hope they solve this PR problem before it further damages them.

    • “Imagine the world of cycling without Specialized?”
      I do, every time I get on my Rocky Mountain, my Schwinn Homegrown, my Cannondale track bike, and my Bianchi cross bike.
      In fact, Specialized never crosses my mind.

    • Hi cL,

      I started my own company, and I would never dream of treating anyone like these lawyers for Specialized are treating Dan Richter. I can imagine the world of cycling without Specialized: the exact same number of pro cycling teams, the same or higher number of product innovations (and fewer government recalls), and the exact same size and power of an industry. I am absolutely ready to abandon Specialized, as we should all be. The PR nightmare they have just created is their own. The maltreatment of a small shop owner in Alberta, Canada deserves a response. What is going to surprise the hell out of you is how much bigger that response is than what you think is just a “small percentage of blog and forum posters”. This is viral and worldwide. It is growing exponentially. This is a clear case of lawyers’ self-interest and an example of how trademark protection has gone too far. This isn’t a “highchair soap box”; this is a good example of how a grassroots-organized defense of the “little guy” wins against corporate greed and aggression. Your argument is as lame as a defense of Lance Armstrong getting a “bum deal”. He and Specialized will get what they deserve: a strong public backlash for bad behavior.

    • Oh yes, just imagine the world without Blockbuster. Oh wait… The bizarre reverence for big companies in this country never ceases to amaze me.

  16. I have not seen any one address Specialized statement regarding having to defend their trademarks. So the letter could have been written nicer like the JD one. But what if they didn’t defend the name in this case then another entity used the name and they could not stop them because they have a case where they did not defend. So where is the talk about two victims. It’s how our legal system works that we should be talking about. We should be saying it is bummer this name has to be defended. Maybe!

  17. Im a pretty well heeled mountain biker. My wife and I are also centers of pretty influential and affluent peer groups. It is because of behavior(s) such as this that we will NEVER own a Specialized product and we influence others to follow suit (excuse the pun…). There are a LOT of great bikes out there, why reward bad behavior? Specialized could easily be the good guy and license the name for $1 a year to whomever they please. We’ve done something similar with a name. This allowed us to protect the name yet be fair in allowing someone else use of it.

  18. I think you are spot on. It is to be expected that you would get some of the feedback you have defending Specialized’s position on this. Its just how it goes. Never been a huge fan of their bikes, but don’t have anything against them either. Just prefer the ride of other bikes more; and I’ve never found them terribly innovative.

    There are other companies that advocate design and development in the industry. They come up with things like larger diameter head tubes, and eventually tapered steerer tubes to make handling safer and more precise. Or BB30, and release it as an open source standard, instead of keeping it proprietary.

    Hopefully some additional good comes out of this.

  19. It’s curious that in all this dialog, nobody discusses the possibility that Specialized’s first move was to write the retailer a routine courteous demand letter similar to the Jack Daniels example. Why does everyone here jump to the conclusion that the lawsuit was the first contact between the parties? I also find the level of outrage, boycott threats, and invective to be way out of proportion. How about all those “Groundpounder, Stumphumper, Rockripper, Rockstomper” and other trademark ripoffs that Specialized suffered over the years to get to this situation?

    • Alan,

      The reason people are jumping to that conclusion is because that’s the information out there right now. The owner of Cafe Roubaix has indicated that their first effort out of the box was incredibly hostile, and was followed up with further, more hostile letters and a complete lack of interest in any reasonable discussions or intermediate steps. And that’s part of Specialized’s problem here…there’s a vacuum of information (caused by their decision to not respond), and that vacuum is being filled with one side of the story. It all goes to the underlying point: they need to acknowledge that they have a perception issue and they need to address that perception issue. Even if they’re right about the underlying intellectual property claims, they still need to address the public image issue.

  20. Only a small correction: Syniard started his company out of his sweat and effort – AND a name originaly created by Tom Ritchey (Mountainbike). Which he then went on to defended as his with same energy and resolute as today´s.

    Do as I say, don´t do as I do. Looks like this kind of behaviour and ethical guidance, good or bad (bad in my book, but I understand big corp practice will always be big corp practice) is in the DNA of Specialized.

    And this coming from someone who untill a month ago owned his 5th Big S bike (starting with a ´91 steel Stump) and lots of S goods, from gloves to shows, that still get ridden everyday. Such a poor, miscalculated PR move – yet again.

  21. It makes me especially mad that they’re suing over something that is clearly not theirs! And if they have a piece of paper that says it is… That piece of paper is just downright WRONG!

    This whole thing is unfounded! The Paris-Roubaix race goes back to 1896 so any link the name Roubaix has to cycling comes from way way long before Specialized even existed.

    I would understand suing over some innovative carbon fiber shape or suspension or something that came from putting great minds together and actually creating something! This I do not grasp!

    By the way, a quick google search reveals a Venge Restaurant in Istanbul, Turkey, one hit in Kiev, Ukraine (can figure out what it is) and what seems to be a rather large utility or construction company in Yereva, Armenia. Are they going after these guys next?

  22. Why don’t Specialized use something like this to their advantage. I don’t think a little shop like this will damage their image, and probably nobody in the cycling world has ever heard about Cafe Roubaix until now. The big winner here is Cafe Roubaix with it’s new found fame in the cycling world. Work with the Cafe Roubaix owner for both to gain publicity out of it. By working together, I think Specialized will create a better PR image and sell a few extra bikes. Now they have lost numerous potential sales by bullying a small guy. I do not say Specialized is wrong in protecting what belongs to them. I am saying that by sharing their property will benefit them. In have 3 Specialized bicycles, and love them. (2 S-Works Road and a Crux CX) My daughter (google Carla Swart) was racing on them for various teams. (HTC Highroad, Team Vera Bradley to name a couple) and they do a lot of good in the cycling world by sponsoring teams. I just feel they are missing the boat here that could have been a brilliant PR opportunity. Please Specialized, replace your legal team with a good PR team. The legal guys do it to prove they are correct and for the money. I still love to ride your bikes, but if you keep on bullying, I am pretty sure the other brands are not that for behind. And what do you really sell. It’s just a hanger (frame) for all the other overpriced components that we put on it. Mr Mike Synyard, please take control and tone down the legal guys. There could be other more important stuff for them to do. Until this fiasco, I have never heard of Epic Wheel Works (or whatever their new name is), Epic Designs (Relevate Designs) etc., is a waste of time. Rather use them to advertise your brand by working with them. Good example in the open letter from Jack Daniel’s.

  23. Wow. there are a lot of people that simply do not understand trade mark law. Remember, this is in Canada, not the USA. First off, a trademark does not have to be original, but it must be sufficiently distinct. Secondly, trademarks do not give exclusive rights to a symbol, for instance, but only for the symbol in relation to a particular use in order to distinguish the product from others. Let me hang on particular use for a moment. A bicycle shop/café is the same as a bicycle frame? Hardly. In Canada, the primary purpose of trademark law is to to fulfill the mega-corp’s desire to have ‘property’ but rather to protect the consumer. We are guarded from fraudulent use and that protects us, the consumer. So, how daft does Specialized think we are that we are going to confuse a Bike shop/café from a bicycle? That’s an insult. Specialized would not have a chance in court defending this suit. It’s too bad that the shop can’t afford the litigation, or could they?

    If Sinyard (I guess that’s 3 feet of sin) is so confident he’d win the suit, why not fund the shops legal costs? You win, you get the shop renamed, your goal, right? You lose, you *%#$@-ing stop bullying small shops, like (Epic) Sugar Wheel Works, and so on.

    • correction: should have said “…purpose of trademark law it NOT to fulfill the mega-corp’s…”. And one more point, in Canada, perhaps not universal, a registered trade mark will not be granted if the mark is ‘primarily a name or family name’. Since, Roubaix is a name (of a place in northern France) and a known surname, one would argue patently that Roubaix simply cannot be a successful registered trade-marked at all . Perhaps this is why the Specialized web site in Canada fails to declare the word ‘Roubaix’ as a registered or non-registered mark.

      If indeed,the mark is not registered in Canada, then I dare say that Specialized and its council are very foolish and have exposed the company to perhaps irrecoverably bad PR. And to the author’s point, this isn’t about the details of trade-mark laws, but rather about doing the right thing, behaving correctly, and considering the image that Specialized should stand for is not this.

      • F&*K me… A total clusterFCUK… Specialized, in their megacorp style has totally snowed the Canadian Government. They have indeed registered the mark “Roubaix” in Canada:

        1331172 REGISTRATION NUMBER:

        Specialized Bicycle Components, Inc.
        15130 Concord Circle
        Morgan Hill, California, 95037

        However, those bullies managed to dupe the government. here’s the rule spelled out in black and white on the Canadian GOV web site:

        “What can’t you register?

        The kinds of marks that you may not register include the following:

        – names and surnames; …”


        Last I checked a phone directory, Roubaix is a surname. Bloody failure.

  24. I think it is an example of trademark bullying on the part of Specialized Canada. This little and I mean little shop is no threat to that Corporation! It is located in our little town that is 12 Kms down the hill from where we are in Rocky View County. Also the word Roubaix is a town in France. I doubt that Specialized asked for permission from that town to use its name in their products.

  25. I think the Town of Roubaix and Fuji should be suing Specialized for being so arrogant and stupid….
    When I think of the name Roubaix…I think of a small community in the north of France that hosts an epic bike race and has a cool Veledrome, pool, shops and art gallery. What I don’t think of is some egotistical US bike brand that needs to give its’ head a shake because they have lost sight of reality and their place in the world.
    I knew of Roubaix and had visited the town long before the “S” company even existed…..

  26. Great response. My 2004 Stumpjumper was stolen last year, I was planning on buying a shiny new 2014 from the Big Red S but this nonsense has me reconsidering for whom my dollars vote. Lawyers are like armies, if you’re paying for them you’ve gotta use them 😦

  27. He is nothing if not smart and clever…not the kind of ‘smart and clever’ you want to have over for dinner, but still….The ‘brotherly love’ – “I own it” reaction is a marketing and branding response.
    This response is designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to save the brand. What gets missed here is that the incident and reaction to it are getting all the headlines, but the soul of this man and his company (still private, not a publicly traded corporation or subsidiary of another company, by the way….hmmm) are unethical. He (and they) crush the little guy; he (and they) are in it for power and control and profit (at any cost); he (and they) didn’t start acting like a$$hats 5, 10, or 20 years ago…it is in his (and their) genetic makeup.
    Hundreds of people of have had their lives needlessly injured by him (and them). Some recovered, some didn’t. Maybe finally, the light is going on for the cycling public and the kool-aid that is Specialized will not be drunk anymore..

  28. Pingback: Thomas Barraga is an Idiot, and So Are You. | riding against the grain

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