The Explainer: Living by Annika’s Rule

Sinyard“It’s my responsibility and I accept that.”
Specialized CEO Mike Sinyard

Yup, that’s right. After days of near complete radio silence from Morgan Hill, the chief bigwig at Specialized personally traveled to Cochrane, Alberta, and put in an order for a healthy dose of crow at the Café Roubaix.

I, for one, say good on ‘im for that.

In a video posted on the shop’s Facebook Page (which as of this morning has 14,593 “likes,” by the way) Sinyard did about the only thing he could have in light of the complete PR meltdown his company suffered after news of Specialized’s heavy-handed approach to the small shop’s use of the “Roubaix” name, a trademark (which, as it turns out, Specialized doesn’t actually own, but uses with the permission of Fuji’s parent company, but I digress).

At this point, this is no longer a story about intellectual property and trademark law. It’s a story about public relations, knowing when and how to use the “big club” and how, in this modern media environment, the big guy is almost always at a huge disadvantage in bar fight.

Take some time to watch the video. It’s interesting for a lot of reasons, not least of which is that Sinyard kinda looks like he’s starring in one of those forced confessional videos the North Koreans stage before releasing – or executing – a prisoner.

The dynamic is clear. Sinyard is obviously tense and uncomfortable. He’s lost the fight (one he may not have even known he was in until it was too late) and he’s doing his best to retrieve even a shred of goodwill. In contrast, Café Roubaix owner Dan Richter, looks completely at ease. He should. He’s just played the role of David to Sinyard’s Goliath … and we all know how that one turned out.

There’s already been plenty of talk about the social media firestorm that a small news item in the Calgary Herald under the headline “War veteran forced to change bike shop’s name after threat from U.S bike giant Specialized.” Twenty-five years ago, that would have been it. The story would popped up in the Saturday paper. It would have pissed off a few cyclists in and around Calgary. Maybe someone, somewhere along the way someone would have faxed a clipping to a buddy in the U.S. and it would have slowly made its way around cycling circles and been fodder for a bit of back-and-forth on a club ride or two.

Not today. That story got posted last Saturday morning. By Saturday evening it was being Tweeted, Facebooked, blogged and otherwise distributed around that global neural network known as the InterTubes. Hell, it even woke me up enough to write an Explainer Column for the first time in months. I would bet that by Monday, anyone with a love of bikes and web access knew what a @#$%ing bully Specialized was. And therein lies the rub. Specialized, or more specifically its lawyers, are operating as if this were still the 20th (or maybe 19th) century.

“We take care of all of our trademarks, because we do have a lot of – you know – fake product out there on the market; actually it’s huge,” Sinyard explained to Richter. “So we always have our outside attorneys just monitoring things and when it goes, they just go off.”

Sinyard quickly added that he wasn’t blaming the “outside attorneys” because he correctly recognized that “it’s my responsibility.”

As part of that responsibility one would hope that the company’s entire approach to trademarking and trademark enforcement be put under internal review. It probably ain’t such a good idea to allow your attorneys to “just go off.”  To continue in that pattern would be a disaster for the company.

Goodwill ain’t cheap
Part of the fall-out from the Café Roubaix debacle is that all of the company’s past and current sins were dredged up for public discussion as well. The whole saga of Specialized v. Volagi, et. al., was brought up, probably right around the time that controversy from a couple of years ago was finally being forgotten by cycling’s cognoscenti. Other examples of Specialized’s strongarm treatment of small companies found their way into news stories about the Café Roubaix fight, including attempts to keep Portland’s Mountain Cycles from using the name “Stumptown” (despite that being a common nickname for Portland and not an allusion to the Stumps that Specialized jumps) and an effort to force Epic Wheel Works from using the word “Epic” in its brand name.

Okay, let’s just ignore the arrogance of a company that trademarks words like “Roubaix,” “stump” and “epic” and go straight to Specialized’s position that it must “vigorously defend” its trademarks or risk losing them. I don’t necessarily buy that argument, but if it is the case it’s become readily apparent that using the big stick ain’t always the right approach.

Assuming that Specialized’s “outside attorneys” were legally correct in “just go(ing) off,” they sure-as-shit weren’t right, even when it came to their own client, Specialized. Think about how expensive it is for a company to generate interest and support among its customer base. That corporate “good will” is often one of a company’s most valuable assets. To generate that, a company has to spend millions on feel-good advertising and, in the case of a big bike manufacturer, sponsorship of teams, clubs and races. Think for a moment how many “I am Specialized” ads and how many pictures of a victorious Tom Boonen or other racer crossing the line on a Specialized it will take to offset the shit storm of this past weekend.

Basically, I am suggesting that when Specialized is in the market for “outside attorneys,” they look for someone with a bit of public relations experience as well. Failing that, at least hire someone who can think before they leap: “Sure, we can beat the livin’ shit out of this little guy, but it may not look so good if the video is then played on CNN, eh?”

Time to forgive … but not to forget
Personally, I think it’s time to cut Specialized a bit of a break here. To his credit, Mike Sinyard took the big step and personally visited and apologized to Dan Richter. I applaud him for that. I hope the decision has a ripple effect and causes the company to rethink its approach to other matters.

Toward that end, I offer something of a gift to Sinyard and to the staff and outside attorneys in his employ. To understand that gift, I think I need to offer a bit of background.

Just a few years ago, when I was in law school, my daughter, Annika, made a habit of producing covers for my course and exam outlines for every class I took over those three years. I have 34 of them and they are among my most treasured possessions. Annika was 10 when I graduated and she did her final drawings for the three elements of the bar exam, including something known as the “MPRE,” the Multi-state Professional Responsibility Exam. That’s the ethics test that you have to take in order to become licensed as an attorney. Now, ethics/lawyer jokes aside, I was especially touched by the beauty and elegance of what has since become known as “Annika’s Rule.”

Within the confines of a single sheet of paper – or more accurately, the lower left-hand corner of that page – Annika managed to sum up all of the ethics courses I took as a journalist, as a Senate staffer, as a law student and as a lawyer. It’s short, simple and to the point. It applies to law, business, parenting and life in general. It’s easy for anyone to comprehend and it’s a simple reminder that before you make a big decision you should ask yourself one question: “Would this violate Annika’s Rule?”

If so, don’t do it.

No, I don’t always succeed, but “Annika’s Rule” is prominently displayed in my office and I really do try to live by it.

Mike Sinyard, you made huge strides this week and I truly applaud your decision to visit Mr. Richter and to make amends. I hope it sets a pattern for the future of the company.

So, as a gesture of good will, Annika and I offer to you, Mike Sinyard and the rest of the crew at Specialized and all of your outside attorneys, full North American rights (including Canada, of course) to use the copyrighted image, the copyrighted text and our soon-to-be-trademarked moniker, “Annika’s Rule:”

Annika's Rule

Good luck. I think Annika would appreciate the gesture you made this week, Mike.

Now, keep it up.

_______________________________________________________________________

The Explainer is supposed to be a weekly feature on Red Kite Prayer (Pelkey gets sidetracked now and then).

Small Headshot
If you have a question related to the sport of cycling, doping or the legal issues faced by cyclists of all stripes, feel free to send it directly to The Explainer at Charles@Pelkey.com. PLEASE NOTE: Understand that reading the information contained here does not mean you have established an attorney-client relationship with attorney Charles Pelkey. Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained therein without first seeking the advice of qualified legal counsel licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.

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39 comments

  1. MM

    Here’s the issue with this, and the issue with his reasoning behind attempting to sue Cafe Roubaix.
    Sinyard is full of shit. Only when he knew he’d been beaten did he make the effort to contact Cafe Roubaix. Not before the suit, in an effort to hash out an agreement, or even have a conversation. He only got on the plane after his snout got whacked with a rolled up newspaper by both ASI/Fuji, AND the cycling community at large. And let’s face facts here, he got smacked HARD.
    This ‘visit’ was nothing more than Sinyard’s effort to save face. It was his “look at me…I’m FOR the little guy…” moment. Well Mike, I’m not buying it. It comes across as hokey, and a bit dishonest.
    And Sinyard’s reasoning for the suit…to protect the brand from counterfeit products? Yeah…good effort Bro.
    Sure, Cafe Roubaix sells branded wheels…that they build ONSITE. They are not sourcing counterfeit, open mold frames from China, badged with Specialized logos.
    Richter sources parts, and builds his wheels by hand, just like Boyd, ROL, Williams, and myriad other wheelbuilders. There’s NO difference…except that Sinyard didn’t like him using “Roubaix”…for his wheels…or his shop name.
    I’m all for protecting your image/brand from counterfeit, low quality goods that may fail, and injure someone, but the two things just aren’t comparable in this instance.
    It’s duplicitous of Sinyard to allude to this argument.

  2. Anthony F

    Did you really just do that?

    A couple of days ago Patrick back pedaled and basically apologized for what you wrote.

    Now, you go all soft and friendly on a guy you described as a bully? A bully. A type of person, only a few days ago, you said you @#$%ing hate? Just because he orchestrated the production of an apology vid that is obviously self serving and utterly lacking in genuineness? Did he suddenly become not a bully?

    Are you guys really that in love with/ afraid of Specialized?

    Wow.

    You guys must have been dying, hoping, praying, begging that Sinyard would get with the apology so you guys could publish your own apologies to him.

    And things can finally go back to normal.


    1. Author
      Charles Pelkey

      Jayzus, Anthony, you ain’t particularly skilled at reading between the lines, are you?

      Look, if a guy does something good – like eating crow in front of an internet audience – you should applaud it. In that case, I take my cue from Mr. Richter, who played this thing beautifully and is now in a somewhat forgiving mood. That said, I thought it was clear that after applauding appropriate behavior, we still point out other examples of where Specialized appears to have violated “Annika’s Rule.”

      I guess you wouldn’t be happy – or think me true to the cause – unless the whole column were a continuous string of “Specialized SUX!” Sorry. I try to be a little more subtle than that. I guess it didn’t work for ya, eh?

      If encouraging Specialized to follow a rule that says “Don’t be an asshole” amounts to an apology, then I guess I apologized.

  3. Paul O'D

    The comment that “it’s my responsibility” rang a bit thin in the light of with the comments about outside counsel doing their thing. He didn’t say anything about what changes were being instituted in the future process. New outside counsel? Different instructions?

  4. Don Hobbs

    Damn fine rule Annika. Wish we could all adhere all the time. While I agree with all the sentiment Charles, my one nitpick is around the “arrogance” to trademark the name Roubaix. We have cars names Tahoe for the same iconic reasons, and we also have animals and other forms of life being referenced. I see nothing wrong with the imagery of a particular place of natural beauty, excellence or historical significance being captured in a brand, it’s the extension of the claim beyond necessary boundaries that defines arrogance.

  5. e-RICHIE

    It’s a real interesting story about growth, growing up, evolution, and survival, this one about the 1960s counter-culture era character type who once resold European goods from the back of his VW Minibus, and then became this giant, ugly, corporate behemoth who now steps on and over others to make sure his own bed is well feathered atmo.

    There’s this saying, “Sooner or later, we become our parents.” If that’s really the case, it’s a good reason for a vasectomy.

    It’s swell, really swell, that Sinyard apologized. But unless the S corporate culture does a 180, count me among those who are looking for new water bottles.

  6. Dean Williamson

    Just when you thought it was getting better:

    Specialized is at it AGAIN!!!

    Jarek Barc posted this: That’s nice. And TODAY I get a letter from Specialized lawyers saying my family-owned apparel brand, Epix (www.epixgear.com) is too similar in their eyes to Specialized “Epic” MTB frames. Come on guys. The wording is DIFFERENT. The stylization on the wording is DIFFERENT. We are not competing for the same clients (bike frames vs apparel). I invested my life in this, just like Dan did. I’m not saying you shouldn’t defend what is rightfully yours. I’m saying you are over-reaching. You did so with Dan, you are doing so with me, and I think the vast majority of people will agree.

    Epix Cycling & Triathlon Gear
    http://www.epixgear.com
    Unique design, serious performance cycling, triathlon & custom apparel
    Epix Cycling & Triathlon Gear
    http://www.epixgear.com
    Unique design, serious performance cycling, triathlon & custom apparel

    FUCK YOU SPECIALIZED!!! IN THE ASS!!! WITH A RUSTED CROWBAR!!! AND NO LUBE!!!

  7. Quentin

    If this whole thing was caused by an outside law firm taking their own initiative, it makes me wonder whether this isn’t yet another problem created by the “billable hour” business model used by law firms. My only insight into the way law firms work comes from friends who are/were lawyers (and Canadian law firms could be different), but the way I hear it, lawyers, especially young associates, are under a lot of pressure to bill time to customers. There’s a built-in incentive to do more billable work, with the necessity and benefit of the work to the client being secondary concerns.

  8. Anthony F

    I like how knee jerk RKP is when it comes to criticism.

    But, maybe you’re right. It’s certainly possible that I missed your subtle points. I might be illiterate in the language communicated between the lines. I probably shot my mouth off without fully discerning the delicate nuances in your piece.

    If that’s the case I’m sure mine will be the sole dissenting opinion here. And the comments to follow will be in complete agreement with your take on Sinyard.

  9. George

    I don’t think anyone, including CP is completely letting Specialized off the hook. They did a lot of jackass stuff. They still do. You still have to commend a person for coming forward and doing the right thing, as Sinyard did. Was he forced to? Maybe. Did he have to do it? No. But her did and that goes to the standard my father set for me as a child: a bigger man admits when he’s made a mistake, and stands by the consequences of his actions. Has served me well and dove tails well in to Annika’s Rule.

    Now, as a comparison look at Washington DC’s Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who, no matter what he does, doesn’t apologize for his actions or in-actions. Not once. He is now more disliked than most anyone in Washington, short of the Hill.

    I think its also fair to say that in a company that large you can’t keep your thumb on every employee’s actions. You hire staff to handle parts of your company and you try to steer the whole. This is Sinyard’s wake-up call that if he doesn’t agree with the behavior his legal team engaged in then he needs to let them know what his standards are. And that goes the same for the entire company.

    We can only hope that the moral of the story registers beyond Specialized. Our country could use some mea culpa ownership.

    Oh, as an aside Anthony F: there is always one great thing about the internet and media in general: if you don’t agree, you can always choose not to read or watch it. Saves a lot in the angst department.

    Thanks for the thought provocation RKP.

  10. big jonny

    Well said, Charles. Love those outline covers. Man, that is good stuff.

    My two cents (worth exactly what you’ve paid for it): Charles not letting Big S off the hook. This started as a reasonable attempt for a trademark holder to defend their trademark. (Full disclose: I know nothing of the applicable Canadian laws, I assume they are roughly analogous to those in the United States.) It them morphed, rather quickly, into a public relations problem. Hence, the stone-faced meeting and apology. Props to Sinyard for flying out and handling that personally.

  11. Rod

    Agreed, Charles. Lots of back-pedalling still needed, and definitely slow reactions by S.

    I do find it amusing that people are slitting their wrists figuratively over the “sins” of organizations, and that anyone that disagrees with them is a brown-noser. Must be interesting to not be able to see any shades of gray in a situation, but I’d get exhausted from it.

    I am still angry at Specialized, and it still will take a long time for me to warm up to them again. But I surely can accept that Sinyard did the right thing by going over to Alberta. Of course there is PR motivation. And of course people at S should still be trying to figure out how to correct this damage. In my country we say “courtesy is not at odds with bravery” – just becuase someone is your adversary does it mean you have to be a goon. That goes for Specialized – but also to those that now want to crucify Sinyard.

    Vote with your wallets, people :)

  12. JayJay

    I appreciate the balance here, Charles. Thanks for putting this (and the last piece) out there.

    I get no sense that you are letting Specialized (or Sinyard) off easy. I agree with you that when someone makes what appears to be a good faith effort to apologize, you accept it at face value. You get nowhere by insisting on a ‘perfect’ apology. When you start doing that, you get the legal department involved again.

    However, the mark of a true apology is always, “how will you do things differently now?” And that is what I think we need to wait and see. As others have pointed out, it didn’t go over well that Mike Sinyard referenced “outside lawyers” as the ones who did the deed. Dude, really? That is what they get paid by you, Mr. Sinyard, to do! Clearly they have a mandate from their clients to ‘go aggressively after every remotely possibly trademark infringement.’ This is the pattern of behavior that most of us find so offensive — because I think there is something about this that really goes against the best of our cycling culture.

    “How will you do things differently?” That’s what I would love for someone to ask Sinyard. (Sadly so far, based on the other comments, Specialized seems to be back at it…)

  13. Alex TC

    I for myself, being a long-time Specialized supporter and consumer, never entertained the idea of throwing out my Spz stuff or not using it on weekend rides. But I don´t quite feel like supporting or buying from them for the time being. Everything changes, I live by the rule of don´t say “never” or “forever”, or stand too hard on one position because everything changes. Time does that.

    As a cyclist I stil prize Specialized´s quality and style, and still value their involvement with the sport. I hope all that remains. It is important on so many different levels that realistically we all win and benefit from it. When I say that I think Padraig and RKP as well as Contador and all Spz sponsored teams, high and low.

    But for the moment I just don´t feel like purchasing any of their stuff. Long ago and for some time Specialized had a huge “shine” factor for me, today it dulled some. As I said this feeling is sure to vanish, maybe unlikely my deep disregard for some “supercool” brands that abuse marketing yet use slavery workforce or endorse and even get involved in corrupt schemes, doping, the like (we all know a few big ones in our sport don´t we). If something comes to the surface I just get a hangover of sorts and that brand kinda loses the shine.

    Overall, I think Specialized has an OK work and business ethic, better in some areas and just terrible at others, at least as far as I´m concerned. There are a couple of dark sides they should work on and improve as you said. I´m not naive, it really must be hard for a big corporate to defend its ground but still… I believe we should do our best whenever we can, even if our power is small.

    And thanks for Annika´s Rule. Aren´t children amazing? I believe we all would be much better with ourselves and others if we tried to live by that.

  14. Andy

    The info re: Epix Cycling & Triathlon Gear and the next couple of events like it are opportunities for Specialized, Mike Sinyard, outside lawyers et al. to show whether this is a statement of a change in attitude or a hand-in-the-cookie-jar event. CP is right. A lot of very expensive TV and studio production time will fix this hole in Specialized’s shorts. Mike S. and his execs need to decide what the core of Specialized is like and communicate that to those who pass it on to us. If this is truth, then good for them. If it’s hypocrisy, we should all buy elsewhere.

  15. Mark Tyson

    Your daughter’s rule is a valuable reminder for all of us no matter our place in the world. Perhaps it even applies to some of the holier than thou comments above. Hey the guy got on a plane in the middle of winter and went to Canada and made amends himself. For better or worse the bike shop garnered more publicity and good will than would ever have been possible without the kerflufel. The corporate giant did an appropriate mea culpa. Attorneys are paid to be *&%$ holes (hope I got Annika’s spelling correct)…no disrespect intended. Seems to me that all worked out just fine.

    Mark Tyson

  16. MCH

    I’ve really appreciated RKP’s balanced reporting on this issue. Virtually everywhere, Specialized was condemned and villified almost immediately. This is not to say that they are blameless, but rather to reflect how quickly (and without all of the information) the mob pulled out the fire and pitch forks.

    I also choose to believe that most everyone can change and that they should be given a 2nd chance. I hope that Mr. Sinyard chooses to implement change across his organization, and does so quickly. Time will tell, and the cycling world is watching.

    Finally, you’re very fortunate in your daughter. From the glimpse you’ve provided, she seems wondeful.

  17. avid fair weather cyclist

    nope, not buying it. this is exactly the same behavior as he whose name shall not be mentioned. sociopathic intimidation. mike apologized because he had to. he is trying to control the narrative.

    yes it is good he said i’m sorry. yes they make great gear, who doesn’t?

    I don’t own any of it but if I did i’d black it out with electricians tape.

    naw, gotta call bullshit on this one. you can’t get to where mike is without doing what he does and he is very unlikely to change.

    love the power of the internet against the big guys. we control the narrative.

    merry Christmas, one and all.

  18. Walter Nash

    Mike S looked as though he was getting a barbed wire enema during the video. Contrived and not very genuine. “Counterfeit goods”…”outside lawyers”…please. This was simply a PR spin attempt he was forced to do by corporate handlers.

    They will keep doing it without missing a beat.

  19. Mike C

    One of the major cycling magazines did an article on Specialized and Mike S about a year ago. One of the things pointed out was how often big S went after other manufactures and small businesses. It appears nothing has changed. On an even sadder note is a local S dealer treats it’s customers roughly the same way and they go to the competitive shops for further sales and

  20. bigwagon

    I’m glad you called out the clueless corporate lawyers. Annika’s Rule reminds me of another one: “Calling it your job don’t make it right, boss.”

  21. Mike C

    One of the major cycling magazines did an article on Specialized and Mike S about a year ago. One of the things pointed out was how often big S went after other manufactures and small businesses. It appears nothing has changed. On an even sadder note is a local S dealer treats it’s customers roughly the same way and they go to the competitive shops for further sales and servicing. A terrible way to conduct business

  22. slowride(r)

    Charles, I wish I could like comments on here because your response to Anthony was classic.

    I am not letting Specialized off the hook completely, but will be watching their behavior in the future to see if they continue their heavy handed tactics. They do make quality bikes and components of which I use some. I just hope they’ve learned the lesson they needed to learn to deal with business in the internet age.

    Glad to have you back writing columns again. Hope to see you back again with a new one soon (hopefully doping and Specialized free!)

  23. Noah S

    “At this point, this is no longer a story about intellectual property and trademark law.” I wish this were not true. As much as I was pleased to see ASI put S in their place, I was troubled that ASI said they would need to license the term Roubaix to the shop. Rather than just smooth this whole incident over, I had hoped that the ridiculous nature of this trademark could have been dealt with.

  24. TominAlbany

    Charles,

    Rule #1: Annika’s right!
    Rule #2: Her mother is ALWAYS right!

    I appreciate Sinyard wanting to protect his intellectual property. As you say, though, he needs to have a leash on the dogs he lets out. And, if they did go out on his order, I’d like him to be man enough to admit he stepped in it this time.

    And for the haters out there, anyone that thinks the counterfeit market is small has never looked into it. Just remember that Specialized to make some pretty nice stuff and that they’re so successful, that, like Nike and Rolex and all of the other great brands out there, they’re going to get ripped off. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but, that don’t pay the bills!

  25. Ben F

    This isn’t the only instance where Specialized wanted the name Roubaix removed. They also came after the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks department to change the name of a lake in the Black Hills. It has been Roubaix lake for longer than I have been alive (46 years) so there is no way that it infringes on their name as it has been around for longer than Specialized has been a company.

  26. Alex TC

    @Tomin:
    Indeed the piracy is huge and indeed Specialized is perhaps one of the most affected brand in the bike biz. It sure as hell must be fought hard too. But IMHO it is a lame excuse and a subtle spin in this case because, among other reasons, Specialized can´t fight piracy alone – it is so big that governments and worldwide agencies must be involved and at the front (brands and companies helping and pushing the fight of course).

    @Ben:
    I agree and can´t help wondering how many cases didn´t come to surface and caused this movement. We may know but a few, and I suspect more are to come as it happens in situations like this. Much like the LA crap being dug out slowly, every week there´s a new one about his past sins and it keeps coming.

    I´m convinced that what prompted Sinyard´s response and movement wasn´t Specialized being Specialized (a bully) but rather the tsunami of s#*t that completely smacked them. And there´s a difference and it´s important and this is not a “haters” movement. If it wasn´t for that, I´d bet they´d go on with this practice forever. Much like Lance Armstrong I guess – they keep moving untill they meet a bigger opposing force.

  27. Jeff Spencer

    It looks like it is Sinyard who has PTSD. It looks like he doesn’t even know what a bro hug is. While it is the right thing to do, his appearance appears to me to be more about scripted damage control than a sincere heartfelt apology. Why the silence and delay? My best guess is they wanted to see if the damage would be real and whether it might blow over; it probably took them a few days to gather data.

  28. MCH

    Perhaps Sinyard is just not a “hugger”. So he can’t do the “bro hug” – it doesn’t mean he’s the devil. Much more important, IMO, are his actions. Since his visit north, he’s changed his company’s policies, called off the attorneys, and reversed multiple cease and desist letters. All this in a week! As much as many want to see Sinyard and Specialized as evil, I just don’t think its the case.

  29. Jeff Spencer

    Actually, I don’t think that is Sinyard at all, I think he sent his cyborg body double. I don’t mean to imply that Sinyard is evil, unless you are of the mind that amoral Machiavelian corporate behavior is an intrinsic evil. Time will tell whether Sinyard and his mercenary goon squad have come to Jesus. Perhaps they have learned a lesson. However, I think the lesson most likely learned by the corporate schills is that they will want to be sure that they are not going after a Veteran with PTSD, or a cancer survivor… I may be cynical, but I doubt this would have had nearly as much impact if Richter had not been a sympathetic figure, an Afghan War Vet with PTSD. Imagine if Richter was not Richter, but Hwang, a recent immigrant from China, would there have been a critical mass of outrage and support? I doubt it. Would Specialized have done the right thing if no one was looking?– I doubt it. Would Specialized have done the right thing if it didn’t affect their bottom line? — I doubt it. Past performance is not necessarily an indicator of future performance, but it is often a pretty good predictor.

  30. Garuda

    About jeff’s comment:
    It would be very interesting if it were Mr Hwang. It would have given us a glimpse of the underlying racial bias we so desperately try to hide.

  31. Khal Spencer

    Good essay, CP.

    Having lawyers “go off” is a little like having a hunting rifle with such a hair trigger that you end up with a continuous supply of self-inflicted wounds and holes in the local trees. The mind has to control the finger and the trigger.

    My question is what did Mike Sinyard know and when did he know it? Corporate needs to follow the Annika rule first and listen to its lawyers in that context; you don’t get market share by kicking a little guy’s ass in court. You ultimately do it with good product.

    If Specialized’s design and engineering depts. were as tone deaf as its legal team, we wouldn’t even be reading this because no one would have ever heard of Specialized. I really like my Stumpjumper, but if my opinion of Specialized changes to one of disgust, I’ll ask the LBS what other brands to test ride next time I’m looking for a bike.

  32. Jason Lee

    Cafe Roubaix, was taken advantage of twice. Once with the lawsuit threat and then with the publicity stunt apology.

    Let’s get something clear: Specialized didn’t even have the right to sue. It’s simple bully tactics, hoping to scare and bury the little guy with lawyers and money.

    IT DOESN’T MATTER THE LAWSUIT THREAT IS TOTALLY BOGUS. Specialized knows this. No matter what, they have to go to court to prove it. That is money most small businesses don’t have… and Specialized knows it.

    Cafe Roubaix should have just ignored Specialized after it was found that they don’t even own the trademark. They are really lucky, and counting on the good graces of an honest man get some PR spin.

    Con artists and Nigerian telemarketing scammers must work for S’s legal team.

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