CALGARY - The power of social media may have forced peace talks between a veteran from the war in Afghanistan and a U.S. bicycle giant in a battle over trademarks.
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 received a notice from Specialized Bicycle Components a few months ago informing 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.
"We got served notice of trademark infringement by a law firm out of Ontario representing Specialized," said Richter.
"I was gutted."
Richter, who served in Afghanistan in 2008, 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.
"I planned as well as I could. We did research almost as well as we could, and the only thing we didn't do in startup was check the actual trademark database," he said.
"At the time, my knowledge of trademarks was obviously different than what I know now."
The story caused a flurry of criticism on Twitter directed at Specialized. The company's Canadian head office is located in Montreal.
"I can't understand why they trademarked Roubaix in the first place, but going after a war vet blows my mind," tweeted The Velominati.
"When did @iamspecialized copyright the word Roubaix? A perfect PR disaster: suing a bike shop run by a war vet," wrote Kenny Pryde.
"So pleased that I got to visit Roubaix before the city had to change its name," added Dan Wuori.
Larry Koury, managing director of Specialized Canada Inc., didn't return a call from The Canadian Press seeking comment.
Richter said he saw the "likes" on his Facebook page jump on the weekend to about 15,000 from around 500. And Specialized came back to the bargaining table.
"We found ourselves a great lawyer who was familiar with intellectual property cases. The short story to it is now, after this weekend, everyone is back at the table discussing things. As a matter of fact, my lawyer is probably in negotiations as we speak.
"It's brought them back to the table and our belief is there is a great compromise in there somewhere. All is not lost. We're tentatively optimistic."
Richter said he is touched by the public show of support.
"I knew our case was going to garner some attention. Nowhere in my wildest dreams would I expect the outpouring of support and everything.
"It's being negotiated and I think the voice of social media has been heard."
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