Help Café Roubaix Dec 9, 2013


EDIT: Specialized has experienced a bit of foot in mouth since this article was written.

Look, I know this situation with Café Roubaix and Specialized has been on everyone’s social network radars at some point over the weekend. While people have supplied their opinions, I tried to rationalize my take on the whole debacle. You see, I really hate reading about corporate bullies throwing their weight around. How can you even claim that you own the name of a commune in northern France?

I’m banging my head against the wall here. Mostly because I actually respect what some of Specialized does. While it’s not all for me, they’re an American company that has been around for decades, employing people who love to ride bikes and have put out some rather interesting design projects over the years. That said, their corporate assholish attitude really bums me out. Here’s a summary of what they’re doing to Café Roubaix:

“A Canadian veteran of the Afghanistan war who operates a tiny bicycle shop in Cochrane is being forced to change his store’s name after being threatened with a lawsuit by one of the giants of the U.S. bike industry.

Dan Richter, owner of Cafe Roubaix Bicycle Studio, located above the famous Mackay’s Ice Cream in Cochrane, says he received a letter from the lawyers of big bicycle maker Specialized several months ago, demanding he change the store’s name because the company owns the trademark on the word Roubaix, which they use to market a brand of road bike.”

To add insult to injury, this isn’t the first time they’ve done something like this.

So I want to know. What gives, Specialized? Are you like the small-minded bully who walks around beating up nerds? Look, they’re even wearing red.

At any rate, I wanted to address this to not open up a forum on how much Specialized sucks, but to help out Café Roubaix. Check out more on this Indie Go-Go campaign or just buy a shirt!

  • Sebastian Kills Francis

    this fits with a part of last nights episode of Treme.
    hope the locals around him help him prevail…..”he won’t need the name”.

  • No. 22_Bryce

    I know Dan personally, as covered-off on our FB post from the weekend. A truly great guy that’s trying to move forward and make a living out of his passion after giving-up so much of himself to help others.

    I check-in to his page every hour or so to watch the # of ‘likes’ climb and the support grow. So happy to see the community at large take up his cause; especially given the time of year. Thanks for covering this John, and thanks to all for taking up the fight – trust me when I say this guy deserves it!


  • Eddie Jacobson

    How have they failed to comprehend that the PR nightmare surrounding attacking a small shop like this would be waaaay more detrimental to their brand identity than the presence of this tiny shop? I get that they’re trying to protect their brand, but their legal department should seriously walk across the hall and talk to their PR department for 5 minutes. Ridiculous.

    • Chris McKendry

      Couldn’t agree more. The whole ‘pick your battles’ thing applies here. Can’t see a cool little 2nd story shop threatening the well-being of your worldwide company. Even more of a bummer since I ride a Specialized. Dammit! haha

    • Moneyfire

      Unfortunately, Specialized is in a bind in this instance because Trademark law creates an affirmative duty for the holder of the mark to actively police their mark or risk abandoning their rights. Which is a really shitty way of saying that when PR+legal wrangle over how much of an asshole they need to be Legal is going to win. Specialized’s most valuable asset is almost certainly their IP portfolio and lax enforcement of those rights creates an outsized risk to the company as a whole.

      They still end up looking really shitty and there are ways that Cafe Roubaix could use their mark under license and avoid having to rebrand. Doubtful that Specialized would go for that (see e.g. Epic Wheel Works) but its one possible avenue. None of the above is meant to diminish how shitty this is but IMHO it does help to understand where both sides are coming from, even when one of them is a mutli-national behemoth.

      • Eddie Jacobson

        Great perspective! Could Specialized not license the right to use the name to the shop for next to nothing?

        • Moneyfire

          Yes. Absolutely. There are certainly more creative ways to police your IP portfolio than suing every bike shop that names themselves after one of the four or five most famous races in the world.

        • The more reasonable thing to do would be to not assert ownership of a geographical place name at all. Relinquish the trademark. The customer won’t even notice, especially as Specialized themselves think that their customers have never heard of the race.
          If Specialized are ‘in a bind’, it’s because they bound themselves. Absolutely zero fucking sympathy here.

    • Sebastian Kills Francis

      check out the Specialized facebook page.
      carpet bombing.

  • mat Terwilliger

    There HAS to be a lawer out there that is a cyclist and can help this veteran out.Good to see your doing “your job” john.However i CAN NOT promise that you will cease getting emails from me at 3am est .

  • Mike Hall

    If A trademark attorney wrote at the time:
    “It is unlikely that a significant number of the American population would know that Roubaix, France is the location of a well-known annual bicycle race.”
    Larry Koury, managing director of Specialized Canada Inc., said the company was defending its legally-owned trademark: “We are required to defend or lose our trademark registration.”

    Then wouldn’t a successful marketing campaign of said commune in France and the bicycle race that ends there make them lose their trademark anyway?

    Maybe the commune of Roubaix should open a tourism office.

    In Canada.

    In, say, a bike Shop.

  • Patrick Taylor

    Thanks for writing this John, I completely agree that millionaire bullies have no real place in any market let alone Cycling.

    • Guest

      I completely agree that millionaire bullies
      have no real place in any market let alone Cycling

  • Greg Biché

    what about the Fuji Roubaix

    • Andy MacDonald

      Specialized bought the name from Fuji

      • Greg Biché

        i see. thanks

  • Ian Walker

    What about Super Roubaix, makers of arm warmers etc.?

  • charlesojones

    So Specialized rips-off the name “Roubaix” from hundred year old bike race…then get pissed when someone else want to use it too? Perhaps the wankers at Specialized should practice what they demand from others.

  • schue113

    Just waiting for them to take on Stumptown coffee next.

  • ezweave

    This may be a Canadian specific copyright/trademark law issue.

    1) Fuji has a Roubaix line in the US (they don’t sell bikes in Canada).

    2) There are a few Roubaix named bike shops in the US as well (these guys… although they may have had to change their name. Though I don’t live in Greeley you can find the name on the about page:

    3) He’s selling custom wheels under the name.

    Specialized may still be wrong, of course, but there is a wee bit more to it than the sensational post from the Herald implies.

  • younggods

    Never seen anything from specialized I’d want. Now I’d never buy anything from them even if they made something I wanted.

  • btdubs

    This is where these shenanigans stop!

  • Sebastian Kills Francis

    Didn’t Rapha do a stage race, with a Roubaix edition jersey ?

  • Tom Souzer

    And cafe roubaix wins!! Looks like the specialized camp just made huge fools of themselves, the greedy bastards.

  • cub_x

    According to my local Neil Pryde rep they are also being sued this one over the name Alize which they say is to close to Allez

  • Andy Brown

    Specialized made a press release last night saying he can keep the name of his shop.

  • Superchampion

    i just spoke with Dan today and Specialized have backed down. ASI own the trademark and have said that there is no issues with Dan naming his store Roubiax. Specialized had no right to cause Dan the issues that they have. Sinyard called Dan today and they have had a positive discussion and it seems to be all over now. Thank you for your support!

  • ezweave
  • lorrrd

    behind specialized/sram there is a big bunch of satanists! urban comfort , so u can stay 24/7 in ya cell! … dont they buy all lil companies anyway? jus` as microsoft the other decade , or apple or lvhm , or prada or wtf ever !

  • Bikefreak