Online gear juggernaut Backcountry.com has gotten the goat of the outdoorsy crowd. It seems over the last several months, Backcountry’s legal team has been busy sending cease and desists to companies using “backcountry” in their names. Companies facing legal action include Backcountry Denim; Backcountry Babes, a female avalanche training course; and Backcountry e-bikes, among others.
The news is not sitting well with folks who see the generic term as part of the public domain.
“Nobody should have the right to the term ‘backcountry,’” Backcountry Denim owner Jordan Phillips, who launched his company in 2017, told the Colorado Sun’s Jason Blevins, who broke the story. “It’s like trying to trademark ‘road’ or ‘beach’ or ‘mountain.’”
According to Blevins’ report, a year ago Back country.com filed for trademarks protecting the word “backcountry” in preparation for launching its own goat-branded line of gear, including jackets, skis and apparel. Founded by ski bums in 1996 in Park City, the e-retailer was bought out in 2015 by private equity firm TSG Partners. Co-founder Jim Holland continues to own a stake in the company. According to the Sun, Backcountry deployed IPLA Legal Advisors, the nation’s largest trademark law firm, in four lawsuits this year. However, court files show Backcountry has been suing folks over the name for far longer, with dozens of lawsuits filed over the last several years with the U.S. Patent and Trade Office.
Of course, local minds may be wondering what this could mean for the venerable downtown institution Backcountry Experience, which has been in business for at least as long as this writer’s lived here (23 years, making it roughly the same age as Backcountry.com.)
Owner Ben Rockis was on the road Wednesday returning from a trade show, but the employee (who we will call “Michael,” because that’s his name) said this was the first he had heard of the fracas. “But it sounds pretty ridiculous,” he added.
Backcountry.com declined to comment for Blevins story but said an official statement would be forthcoming.
In the meantime, Facebook nation is not taking the affront sitting in their camp chairs. No sooner had word made the rounds at the fire ring then BoycottBackcountryDOTcom launched. Started by Aaron Mattons, of Anchorage, the group was 10,000 members strong as of Wednesday.
“Trademarking ‘backcountry’ is like trade-marking ‘camping’ or ‘mountains.’ No one should own or enforce the trademark to it,” Mat-ons posted. “It belongs to the community ... (It) would be resounding victory for the outdoor community to stop them and show that the outdoor consumer won’t tolerate corporate bullies.”
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