Following social media uproar over news the online retailer has been suing small business owners over the use of the word “backcountry,” CEO Jonathan Nielsen wrote in an open letter that the retailer’s attempts to protect its brand “were not consistent with our values.”

“We have heard your feedback and concerns and understand we fumbled in how we pursued trademark claims recently,” CEO Jonathan Nielsen wrote in the statement posted on the retailer’s website. He further noted that his company was dropping a federal lawsuit filed against the operator of Marquette Backcountry Ski. “We made a mistake.”

The Colorado Sun on October 31 first detailed that had filed federal lawsuits against four small business owners who used the name “backcountry.” Dozens of petitions were also filed against others for cancellation of previously registered trademarks held by businesses across the country.

With outdoor sites including Teton Gravity Research and Mountain Project galvanizing support against the e-retailer, a social media firestorm ensued in recent days and thousands of former shoppers reportedly called, e-mailed or posted on’s social media platforms to express their disappointment.

In an article posted Wednesday night, The Colorado Sun said more than 12,000 had signed up as members of a Boycott BackcountryDOTcom Facebook page. CEO Jonathan Nielsen’s open letter follows:

A Letter to Our Community

Dear Backcountry Community,

We have heard your feedback and concerns, and understand we fumbled in how we pursued trademark claims recently. We made a mistake.

In an attempt to protect the brand we have been building for nearly 25 years, we took certain actions that we now recognize were not consistent with our values, and we truly apologize.

It’s important to note that we tried to resolve these trademark situations amicably and respectfully, and we only took legal action as a last resort. That said, we know we mishandled this, and we are withdrawing the Marquette Backcountry action. We will also reexamine our broader approach to trademarks to ensure we are treating others in a way that is consistent with the culture and values envisioned by our founders and embraced by our community.

We only want what’s best for the whole community and we want every person and business in it to thrive. Backcountry has never been interested in owning the word “backcountry” or completely preventing anyone else from using it. But we clearly misjudged the impact of our actions.

We understand that this step we’ve taken may not be enough for some of you. The hope is that we can ultimately win back your trust, even if it takes time. We are grateful to be a part of your lives, providing you with great gear for your outdoor adventures, and all we want is to go back to doing what we do best. We intend to learn from this and become a better company.


Jonathan Nielsen, CEO, Backcountry