Stung by boycott movement, CEO forging deals with businesses targeted in trademark debacle

Jason Blevins, The Colorado Sun

It’s been two weeks since CEO Jonathan Nielsen apologized for his company’s aggressive trademark actions and promised to make amends to the long list of business owners targeted by his now-fired trademark attorneys. And one by one, Nielsen is meeting with entrepreneurs and making things right, reaching deals that partner the e-tailing giant with small business owners who have suffered under his company’s aggression.

“I’m really happy to see that they do want to turn this around and make a good thing out of what was really bad news,” said Emily Hargraves, the owner of Backcountry Babes who was sued by in federal court earlier this year because she had registered and secured a trademark for the word “backcountry” for her business that provides avalanche education to women

Nielsen recently visited with Hargraves and offered to fund a multi-year scholarship program for Backcountry Babes guides pursuing instructor qualification through the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education and guide certification through the American Mountain Guides Association. And she gets to keep using her company name. 

“I do feel that I’ve been made whole,” said Hargraves, who settled her federal lawsuit in a confidential deal earlier this year but emerged this month as a symbol of the company’s bullying trademark tactics when news of the lawsuits ignited a social-media backlash

As first reported last month by The Colorado Sun, in 2017 unleashed a trademark law firm to send cease-and-desist letters, pose legal challenges in the U.S. Patent and Trade Office and even file federal lawsuits against small business owners who had registered the word “backcountry.” The aggressive legal campaign came as the 23-year-old Utah-based e-tailer began creating its own branded gear and filed for new trademarks on categories beyond its 2008 mark for “online retail store services.”

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