PARK CITY — The CEO of Utah-based online outdoor retailer Backcountry.com issued a public letter Wednesday apologizing for recent trademark lawsuits the company had filed against other companies with “backcountry” in their name.
The letter comes amid a call within the outdoor community to boycott Backcountry.com over the lawsuits. A Facebook group called Boycott BackcountryDOTcom had gained 15,000 followers last week, shortly after The Colorado Sun ran a Friday story about a slew of trademark lawsuits the company filed; the group now has more than 16,000 followers.
Federal court records show Backcountry.com filed at least four lawsuits against companies with that name in 2019 alone. In those complaints, the company pointed to its copyright claim to “Backcountry.com” and “Backcountry” it had obtained in 2007, which covered various outdoor equipment and clothing products.
Three of those cases were already resolved by the time the call for a boycott began. For example, one of the lawsuits was filed against a Layton-based company called Backcountry eBikes. That company now goes by the name "Bakcou."
Backcountry.com also filed lawsuits against Backcountry Denim Company, based in Mill Valley, California; Constellation Outdoor Education, LLC, based in Truckee, California, over its website “Backcountrybabes.com;” and Snapperhead Inventions, LLC, based in Marquette, Michigan, over its website “marquette-backcountry.com.”
In addition to an apology to customers, the company filed a motion Thursday to dismiss an active lawsuit against Snapperhead Inventions in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California that had been filed on Sept. 10, according to court records.
Several people attested the lawsuits because “backcountry,” by definition, is undeveloped land away from civilization. It’s the type of area that most outdoors customers strive to go to for recreation. In fact, that’s what Jordan Phillips, the founder of Backcountry Denim, argued in an interview with the Colorado Sun.
“My feeling is that nobody should have the right to the term ‘backcountry.’ It’s like trying to trademark ‘road’ or ‘beach’ or ‘mountain,’” he told the newspaper.
KSL.com reached out to Backcountry.com for comment Wednesday morning but never received a response. However, the company's CEO, Jonathan Nielsen, penned the public letter that was posted on the company’s website later in the day, which addressed the growing outcry.
“We have heard your feedback and concerns, and understand we fumbled in how we pursued trademark claims recently. We made a mistake,” Nielsen wrote. “We only want what’s best for the whole community and we want every person and business in it to thrive. Backcountry has never been interested in owning the word ‘backcountry’ or completely preventing anyone else from using it. But we clearly misjudged the impact of our actions.”
Nielsen added the company “tried to resolve these trademark situations amicably and respectfully” and that lawsuits were the company’s final solution to its disagreements with other companies. In addition, the company will re-evaluate how it addresses trademark concerns “to ensure we are treating others in a way that is consistent with the culture and values envisioned by our founders and embraced by our community.”
Backcountry.com, a privately held company, was founded in Park City in 1996 and has a retail store in West Valley City. The company also has locations in Oregon, Virginia, Costa Rica and Germany.