First Descents sues First Ascent company | VailDaily.com

First Descents sues First Ascent company

VAIL, Colorado – First Descents is suing First Ascent, and the ups and downs of the wheels of justice roll along.

First Descents, the local nonprofit outdoor program for young adults living with cancer, sued Eddie Bauer for trademark infringement. Eddie Bauer has been using the names First Ascent and First Descent for some of its product lines.

First Descents filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver. The lawsuit names Eddie Bauer Licensing Services LLC and Eddie Bauer LLC, the outdoor clothing and gear retailer.

First Descents says Eddie Bauer created “significant” consumer confusion in the outdoor community since Eddie Bauer introduced its First Ascent and First Descent retail outdoor clothing lines.

Then Eddie Bauer began sponsoring its First Ascent outdoor teams, competing in the same outdoor events at the First Descents fundraising teams. That created even more confusion, the lawsuit says.

“When Eddie Bauer launched its ‘First Ascent’ and ‘First Descent’ product lines, and began marketing efforts at the same events where we had an established presence, our ability to distinguish our organization and its First Descents outdoor adventure therapy programs was lost,” says Kelly Malin, First Descents COO.

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Champion kayaker Brad Ludden launched First Descents in 2001 as an adventure therapy whitewater kayaking camp for young adults fighting and surviving cancer. Since that time, First Descents camps have grown to include rock climbing, mountaineering and surfing.

First Descents is back in the valley for a summer adventure camp.

“My goal has always been and will continue to be to protect the First Descents experience for our participants,” says Ludden, who lives in the Vail Valley. “The mission of First Descents is crucial to young adult cancer fighters and survivors.”

A lawsuit was not Ludden’s first choice, he said, but they need to protect their mission.

“It’s imperative that the experience we’ve provided for more than 1,000 young adults with cancer over the last 11 years, and that we continue to provide, is in no way confused with Eddie Bauer’s sponsored teams and retail clothing lines,” Ludden said.

Ludden said they went forward with their lawsuit after efforts failed to eliminate confusion about a perceived affiliation between Eddie Bauer and First Descents.

But Eddie says they own it

The Eddie Bauer Corporation said in a written statement they’re using the name First Ascent because they’ve owned the trademark since 1988. They’ve been using the name First Descent since they trademarked it in 2008.

“We were surprised and disappointed by the suit and press releases from First Descents Inc.,” Eddie Bauer said in a written statement.

“We fully support First Descents as a nonprofit organization and we want them to be successful in their mission.”

Their name First Ascent substantially pre-dates the existence of First Descents Inc., they said.

In 2008, they applied for registration of the First Descent name from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. That registration was granted this year.

“We are interested in resolving this in a manner that is satisfactory for both parties,” Eddie Bauer’s corporate statement said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.