Business Monday: Retailers to pull Aspen Skiing Co.-contested merchandise
November 4, 2018
Clearance racks are nothing unique to Aspen retailers this quiet time of the year, but a select few are lined with soon-to-be-banned merchandise because of a recent lawsuit settlement.
The agreement is part of a civil lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Denver, where Aspen Skiing Co. sued Edwards-based O'Bos Enterprises LLC, in August over trademark infringement. O'Bos owns a chain of T-shirt and souvenir stores in Aspen, Beaver Creek, Snowmass Village and Vail.
O'Bos violated federal law by selling products with designs bearing an aspen leaf and the proper nouns "Aspen" and "Snowmass," Skico alleged.
O'Bos has agreed to pull the merchandise by Dec. 7.
"We have reached a settlement with O'Bos that we feel is fair," Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said in a statement to The Aspen Times. "It protects our brand and allows O'Bos the chance to clear out the merchandise they have on hand by Dec. 7."
Skico filed a notice of the lawsuit's dismissal Oct. 12.
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O'Bos did not formally respond to the lawsuit; however, company manager Robert D. Boselli told the Times in August that "O'Bos' graphic design is not identical to any of the trademarks used by Aspen Skiing Co. O'Bos does not believe this design infringes on Aspen Skiing Co.'s trademark rights and denies the allegations in Aspen Skiing Co.'s lawsuit."
Boselli did not respond to messages last week seeking comment.
The company's regional manager, Lisa LeMay, said she wasn't privy to specifics of the agreement, only that the merchandise must be pulled next month.
She said the settlement won't hurt the company in the long run.
"It's not much product," she said.
As for O'Bos going forward with its own products, LeMay said "we will individually use the name 'Aspen' and we will individually use the word 'Snowmass.'"
The dispute had been going on since 2017, when Skico warned the stores that they could not use a combination of "Aspen" and "Snowmass" on their products, and they also couldn't use aspen leaf logos without Skico's permission.
"(Skico) is simply unwilling to permit your unauthorized use of the leaf trademark or any leaf logo to continue in this manner," wrote Derek Johnson, a Skico executive, in a Sept. 5, 2017-dated letter to O'Bos Enterprises. The letter is an exhibit to the lawsuit.
A nonexclusive license agreement with Skico allowed O'Bos to sell certain Aspen-Snowmass marks and logos, according to the lawsuit.
After that agreement expired, Skico learned that "Defendant continued to sell goods bearing one or more of the Aspen-Snowmass marks without permission," the suit says.
Both sides will pay for their legal costs of the litigation, according to a court filing. The case was filed without prejudice, meaning Skico could re-litigate the case in the future.
"It is important to us to maintain our brand standards and protect the brand we have developed over the years," Hanle said. "Our brand is vital to our business and represents our commitment to community, employees, the environment and our values. We will continue to protect what we own."
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