by Danny Altman
I love David and Goliath stories, and they’re even better when the little guy comes out on top. Trek Bicycles filed a trademark infringement suit against a tiny California winery in the U.S. District Court in Madison, Wisconsin. The suit alleged that Trek Wines willfully infringed Trek Bicycle’s trademark. They of course demanded that (little) Trek pour all its ill-gotten wine down the drain, turn over all their profits, you know, the usual draconian stuff.
So the first thing you have to do in a battle like this is prove to the court that the court has jurisdiction. This is a little tricky in the age of the internets because everybody is everywhere. So (big) Trek has an employee and a couple of relatives order a few cases of wine to prove that (little) Trek is doing business in Wisconsin.
This maneuver did not fly with Judge Barbara Crabb. She told Trek that her court did not have jurisdiction over the case based on such a corny move. So Trek has to start over and come to California to do what they could have done in the first place, which is show up in their opponent’s backyard. Of course, (little) Trek is out a lot of dough, but with their dignity – and name – intact. This story is making the rounds and there are some people blogging stuff like “I will never buy a Trek bicycle.” (Little) Trek is betting that this is not the kind of publicity that (big) Trek really wants out of the deal.
I talked to Trek Wines owner Andy Podshadley and he said his son came up with the idea of calling the wine Trek when they were trekking together in the Tetons. Their winery spends a lot of money on trail restoration and taking at risk city kids up to the mountains. It seems that (little) Trek takes the outdoors almost as seriously as (big) Trek.
You never know where a little trademark infringement suit is going to take you. There’s a report that the whole thing was motivated by Trek’s desire to come out with an energy drink. Which gives me an idea. Why don’t they stick to bikes and let the wine people handle the beverages?