ALBERTA

Dan Richter, Afghanistan War Vet, Gets Apology From U.S. Cycling Giant Specialized

12/12/2013 12:52 EST | Updated 02/11/2014 05:59 EST
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CALGARY - The founder of a U.S. bicycle giant has apologized to a Canadian war veteran and dropped a demand that he change the name of his bicycle shop.

Dan Richter, 43, opened his Cafe Roubaix Bicycle Studio in Cochrane, Alta., just west of Calgary, a year ago. He named the shop after a region in France where a famous bicycle race — the Paris-Roubaix — is held each year.

Richter, who served in Afghanistan in 2008, received a notice from Specialized Bicycle Components, which manufactures bicycles and cycling components, a few months ago. It informed him that the company owns the trademark on the word Roubaix, which is used to market a range of bicycle models such as the Roubaix Expert SL4. It demanded that Richter change the name of his business.

Public outrage over the demand, voiced primarily through social media, got the attention of Specialized and talks between the company and Richter were held on the weekend.

Mike Sinyard, founder and chairman of Specialized, paid a visit to Richter in Cochrane to put an end to the feud.

"We had breakfast and talked out the issue and came to, for all parties, a great conclusion of the last couple of days of excitement," said Richter in a video posted on his Facebook website.

Story continues below video

Sinyard said he wanted to say he was sorry.

"I just want to say a big apology for this whole thing that got out of line and I completely take full responsibility for it," said Sinyard. "What's most important is we withdraw any claim and you can proceed as you like.

"I want to really make sure you know I feel bad ... that it happened."

Sinyard said his company closely protects its trademarks because there are a lot of fake products on the market. He said Specialized has outside attorneys monitoring things and Cafe Roubaix was flagged as a possible trademark infringement.

He said he feels bad because he started his business the same way Richter did, so he can relate to his struggles.

Richter left the military in 2012 as a captain after suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. He used his life savings as well as his military severance to open the business.

The story caused a flurry of criticism on Twitter directed at Specialized. The company's Canadian head office is located in Montreal.

Specialized issued a statement saying it was wrong not to handle the matter more personally from the start.

"In business situations like this, we try to work through them fairly and confidentially and, in this case, we realize our prolonged silence frustrated the passionate cyclists and local community who lent their support to Mr. Richter," it said.

"As we continue to evolve as a business, we will be sure to take this experience to heart, as local bike shops are the foundation of our industry and are extremely important to us."

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