Friday, February 03, 2006

Lancing the Little Guy...

Back in November of '05, the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) decided to play hardball with a small-scale bicycle frame manufacturer from Ohio called Cycles Gaansari by threatening them with that distinctively American cornerstone of conflict resolution, litigation.

The problem? Since May of '04, Cycles Gaansari had been using the name Skidstrong to refer to their line of fixed gear frames and components. This was no accident; the name was coined as a play on the LAF's ubiquitous yellow Livestrong wristbands and the campaign of the same name to benefit cancer research.

However, the name wasn't the only thing similar between the two organizations. Seems Cycles Gaansari created a charity campaign—and a wristband—of their own, to benefit the Bicycle Messenger Emergency Fund (BMEF), a non-profit organization that provides funds to bicycle messengers who are hurt on the job (read: hit by careless and/or angry drivers). Under the bike company's campaign, all proceeds from the sale of Skidstrong wristbands and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Skidstrong parts would be donated to the BMEF.

But in November of last year, some reps from LAF caught wind of this nefarious coattail-riding incident and decided to do something about it. Fearing that the average person with an altruistic bent might lack the critical faculties necessary to discern between the two strongs—and thus might contribute to the "wrong" cause—the LAF instructed their counsel to issue the company a cease-and-desist order (but not before they trademarked the Livestrong name in August of last year, some 15 months after the campaign started).

Cycles Gaansari's response? They ceased and desisted.

Well, from using the name Skidstrong, anyway. The fixed gear components and frames now carry the title Fisso (Italian for "fixed"), a change that meant the company would incur rebranding and inventory costs—costs that surely paled in comparison to the legal fees associated with a court battle had they taken that path. As for their BMEF campaign, it's still going, well, strong (though without the wristbands), despite the LAF's unwillingness to share six little letters.

Seems to me that anyone unable to distinguish between the two causes would probably find the process of writing a personal check or using a credit card online to make a donation to be on a mental par with deciphering the secret name of God. The likelihood of trademark dilution, as it's officially called, seems even lower when you consider the relative obscurity of the Skidstrong brand.

Oddly, these guys are still going strong.

Interesting footnote: The folks at Cycles Gaansari maintain that, upon agreeing to refrain from using the Skidstrong label, they asked the LAF to consider making a donation of $3,000 to the BMEF as a sort of reciprocal good-faith gesture. To date, the LAF has not responded.

(The graphic at the top of this post, minus the red circle with a line through it, was lifted from

1 comment:

Hjalti said...

Gary and Co. are really nice folks as well. I visit a couple times a year when I'm out that way.