De-fleecing

The Backcountry.com saga trudges on. After a backlash over its attempts to sue small businesses who use “backcountry” in their names, the online monolith announced it will drop the lawsuits.

“We have heard your feedback and concerns and understand we fumbled in how we pursued trademark claims,” Backcountry CEO Jonathan Nielsen wrote in a letter on the retailer’s website last Wednesday. “In an attempt to protect the brand we have been building for nearly 25 years, we took certain actions that we now recognize were not consistent with our values, and we truly apologize.”

Specifically, Nielsen points to the suit against Michigan-based Marquette Backcountry Ski, a company that makes a snowshoe-ski hybrid. To make amends, the Utah e-tailing giant has agreed to partner with the company’s owner, David Ollila, to help grow his brand while donating money to two Michigan nonprofits that support innovation. It’s also hiring Ollila as a consultant.

Nielsen, in an interview with The Colorado Sun, said he hopes to reach deals with the other companies and has fired his team of lawyers from the heavy-hitting IPLA law firm.

“I think we definitely did not do it the right way, and we have caused harm in the community,” Nielsen said. “We are going to do a lot of listening and do a lot of apologizing and figuring out how we move forward.”

Despite the olive branch, Backcountry.com is not out of the woods yet. The company has not indicated it will be dropping the 50-plus requests with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office to cancel the trademarks of other companies using “backcountry.”

Instead, Nielsen said he will be reaching out to businesses, like Carbondale’s Cripple Creek Backcountry and the nonprofit Backcountry Babes, to come up with an amicable solution.

“What we found when we sat down with David is that we can sit down and talk about this and work something out,” he told the Sun’s Jason Blevins. “I’m hopeful we can do that with all the parties.”

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