by Mark Alker
April 8, 2014
Back in December Specialized boss Mike Sinyard put out a statement acknowledging the buck stopped with him when it came to taking the rap over their legal attempt to force a name change on a Canadian bike shop. Cafe Roubaix ended up in the Specialized legal cross hairs for having the word ‘Roubaix’ in their name, which was a term trademarked by Specialized. Specialized backed down after a very public online bashing for their heavy handed approach to protecting their brand assets – a point fully acknowledged by Sinyard.
It seems history may be about to repeat itself just 5 months on as their legals force the name change of a bike model sold by Hong Kong based NeilPryde bikes.
The statement posted on the NeilPryde website reads…
“Effective immediately we are retiring our ALIZE bike name and replacing it with NAZARÉ. This is just a name change – your beloved bike will remain exactly the same.
This change comes at the behest of a well known bike company. According to their lawyers the ALIZE name was too close to one of their trademarked bike names and, as such, we need to stop using it.
We didn’t really see it the same way. Both the spelling and meaning are completely different. All our names come from winds (or other water sports references) which is in our heritage. ALIZE is a north-easterly wind found in central Africa and the Caribbean. Any similarity with the name in question, however questionable, was purely coincidental. We are proud of our bikes and our heritage and wouldn’t swap it for anyone’s.
In the end, after months of arguing with lawyers, we were forced to change the name to avoid a protracted and potentially costly legal battle. We prefer to focus on designing great bikes than communicating with lawyers. As such, all ALIZE bikes produced from this spring will carry the name NAZARÉ.
Nazaré is a town and a well known big wave surfing spot on the coast of Portugal. It’s fast, powerful and impressive – just like NAZARÉ.
We hope that you forgive us for this disruption.
So long ALIZE and allez, allez NAZARÉ!”
Unsurprisingly the Specialized Facebook page bore the brunt of a public backlash, quickly filling up with critical posts.
“Innovate or die – or is it litigate and die?”, posted Michael McGill.
Facebook user Travis Harmor posted, “Specialized’s next hire needs to be a linguist. Allez & Alize (both French words) do not mean the same thing, nor are they even remotely pronounced the same way. Such a disappointment to see you doing this again. I thought, Mr. Synard [sic], that you had learned your lesson (your words). This is fairly pathetic. Please stop acting like a conglomerate and start focusing more on making bicycles.”
Later on Monday evening a short statement was cut and pasted as a reply to every critical post on the Specialized Facebook page. It read..
“In July 2013 we reached out to NeilPryde Bikes to figure out a solution on a bike name that was similar to one of ours, Allez, in addition to their use of the trademarks “Epic” and “Innovate or Die”. We were able to agree on a solution in December. We want to thank the NeilPryde crew for working with us on this. We’d also like to congratulate them on their new name, ‘NAZARE’ and we wish them the best success in their efforts.
-Mike Sinyard “
References to two other trademarks, “Epic” and “Innovate or Die” suggests that there could be more to this issue than just the name of a single bike.
For a potted history of Specialized and legal actions in defence of claimed trademarks going back to 1990 see their Wikipedia page.