Naming his business after himself is no longer an option for Mike Wanner.
After 12 years as Mike’s Bikes, Sequim’s premiere bicycling shop is forced to change its name. A chain called Mike’s Bike’s, with 11 stores in Northern California and one of the largest online dealerships of bicycles, sent a cease-and-desist letter to Wanner for name and trademark infringement.
“They trademarked the name in 2011 and are now putting the pressure on the little guys,” he said.
To avoid any legal issues, Wanner plans to change his website, logo and branding on water bottles, stickers, clothes and more. To put light on the matter, he’s hosting a renaming contest through the business’ Facebook account, by e-mail, in person and over the phone. The winner receives a $200 gift certificate.
While Wanner seems ready to move on from the name, he said fighting a legal battle wouldn’t be worth it.
“It would be futile for me to spend thousands of dollars,” he said.
His intention was to keep the business for a few more years and then sell it and retire. Wanner said he wrote a letter to the chain requesting to use his business name for five more years but he was denied.
Mike’s Bikes gave him until February 2014 to change everything over, Wanner said.
Vijay Toke, co-managing partner of Hiaring + Smith, which represents the California cycle shop, said the stores have a national presence through their website, a federal registration trademark and a name they’ve been using since the 1960s.
“We’re making sure others aren’t infringing on that name,” Toke said.
If Wanner weren’t to comply with changing his business’ name, Toke said he couldn’t comment on the ramifications because it depends on each circumstance of the different Mike’s Bikes nationwide they’ve contacted.
By Wanner’s count, there are more than 20 independent Mike’s Bikes stores outside of California that don’t seem to be linked to the store.
The Sequim Gazette called a few other Mike’s Bikes across the nation.
Mike’s Bikes in Gering, Neb., (a motorcycle shop), Mike’s Bicycle Shop in Northfield, Minn., and Mike’s Bike’s in Marshalltown, Iowa, said they have not received a letter to change their name.
Mike Stanley has owned and operated Mike’s Bike Shop in Cannon Beach, Ore., for 38 years and doesn’t anticipate he’ll be contacted. While the name isn’t quite similar, his website, mikesbike.com is similar to the chain’s, but he’s not concerned about that either.
“I get calls from California asking about us but I make it clear who we are and who they are. We are 75 miles west of Portland and 25 miles south of Astoria,” he said.
So far Sequim is the only known affected Mike’s Bikes, but Toke confirmed there are others but he didn’t know how many.
He said Mike’s Bikes (Calif.) just wants to eliminate confusion.
“It’s a well-known chain,” he said. “We’re simply enforcing our trademark rights. Someone searching online may assume they are related or affiliated. Mike’s Bikes is expanding nationwide with brick and mortar and with its online presence. We’re not trying to disrupt local businesses but protect the Mike’s Bikes name.”
Along with himself, Wanner employs two others, manager Paul Ainsworth and mechanic Jon Porlier.
Ainsworth, an employee for five years, said the situation is unfortunate.
“I’ve been to one of their shops before and they were completely helpful and fixed my issue, but this is disappointing to have the big guy beating up on a little guy,” he said.
Wanner feels his business doesn’t affect the chain at all.
“To have this come out now all of a sudden with me 2,000 miles away doesn’t make sense,” he said. “I don’t do Internet sales either. I’m not a threat to them.”
The experience hasn’t turned Wanner bitter, he said.
“It’s the same service just with a different name,” Wanner said.
Submissions of possible new names for the business can be entered at Facebook.com/Mikes.bikes1, by e-mail at email@example.com, by phone at 681-3868 or by visiting the store, 150 West Sequim Bay Road.