Backcountry United founder reacts to BackcountryDOTcom apology

November 2019 Feature

By Karcin Harris

Jon Miller, the founder of Backcountry United, has responded to BackcountryDOTcom’s recent actions, including the apology from the CEO. 

A year ago, BackcountryDOTcom began to trademark the word ‘backcountry.’ In October, BackcountryDOTcom filed lawsuits against companies that were using ‘backcountry.’ Some companies have already changed their names, but mostly the lawsuits were met with thousands of furious business owners, customers and members of the outdoor industry. 

On Nov. 4, Miller joined a Facebook group called BoycottBackcountryDOTcom, which was started by Aaron Mattson in response to The Colorado Sun’s article on BackcountryDOTcom suing companies. The page blew up to 22,000 followers in 10 days.

Miller said the page “has played a significant role in pressuring BackcountryDOTcom to issue a couple of press releases apologizing for their bullying.”

When Miller first heard about the trademark, he said he felt frustration and hopelessness.

“Frustration that no matter what measures a small business takes, even if they spend thousands of dollars and invest in protecting their trademarks and other intellectual property, it is worthless if a corporation decides they want to take it from you,” Miller said. 

“And hopelessness, because where do we go from here?” he continued. “How do we stop this sort of behavior in the United States of America, when large corporations have the ability to dominate the public domain by leveraging various forms of pressure on people who have put their futures on the line to make a go at entrepreneurship?”

After BackcountryDOTcom’s CEO Jonathan Nielsen apologized Friday for the company’s actions and announced they were withdrawing all of the lawsuits, Miller said there was still a lot to worry about. 

Miller said the apology is “a good start, but it is definitely the minimum of what should be done to repair the damage they’ve caused in people’s lives. Until we see real, long-term action and behavior change, his apology is just words.”

“We don’t know what BackcountryDOTcom will do next,” Miller said. “But we expect that they will continue to silence all communications channels in the industry, and leverage their financial weight against all the companies they have silenced with their bullying legal tactics. They want to hush this movement down as much as possible to get us through the Black Friday weekend and Q4 sales season. This is our own leverage as a movement is the timing of it all.”

Miller said everything that has happened needs to lead to a ‘behavior change in the outdoor industry’ to better protect smaller businesses.

“If BackcountryDOTcom has the ability to crush any small business who uses the word, what is to stop them from doing it to many more small, passion-built or purpose-driven companies in our snowmobile community?” Miller said. “Small businesses are the foundation, and lifeblood of innovation in the snowmobile industry, as well as the cornerstone of freedom and opportunity in this country. Under the current system, there is no word or idea that is safe from predatory corporate IP litigation bullying practices. If a corporation wants your business assets bad enough, you better look out because the system will not protect you.”

Miller said everyone in the outdoor community should be cautious, saying “What’s next? Mountain? Snow? Powder? Sled? Winter? Fun? Be careful what you create because whether you own a trademark, copyright or patent, it doesn’t matter if you find yourself in the crosshairs of the wrong brand growth strategy or litigious IP attorney.”

“This industry and community should be livid,” Miller said. “Please join the BoycottBackcountryDOTcom page and help us put leverage on this corporate bully.”

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