BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4)– The colors and design on the can look the same but there’s a small change on the top of a Colorado coffee company’s cans. Instead of Backcountry Nitro, the new name Wild Barn Coffee is in the same place.
“I don’t have the money to pay for lawyers to fight this in court. My only choice was to pivot, so I got upset for a second but didn’t really take it personally until this past weekend when the article came out and I saw the whole outdoor community take it personally,” said Jenny Verrochi, the founder of the coffee company.
In the fall, Verrochi opened an email with a cease and desist letter from the lawyers representing backcountry.com. The Colorado Sun broke the story last week of dozens of trademark lawsuits by the retail giant, mostly against small entrepreneurs like Verrochi and Backcountry Nitro.
CBS4 first reported on Backcountry Nitro in November 2018 when it launched an online campaign to raise money to start the business.
“We had a successful Kickstarter where we raised $30,000. After that I’ve slowly been doing sales. Our first sale was Eldora Mountain Resort. That was important to me and since then they’ve been our biggest customer,” Verrochi said. “I felt very alone, but I knew starting a business, things like this would come up and pivot. But I was very surprised to find out there were dozens and dozens of letters of cease and desists and people were getting sued, these small companies.”
Verrochi says she and her business partner didn’t have time or money to spend fighting the Backcountry suit. So they quickly re-branded.
“I took down my website, I changed it. if you go to backcountrynitro.com it will redirect you to Wild Barn and I let the lawyers know I did do that and haven’t heard back,” she said.
She stopped short of signing non-disclosure agreements like many other companies have done to settle.
“it is somebody else’s livelihood that you are playing around with. They used the fear tactic and I think that we’re bigger than the fear tactic and you shouldn’t use that on anybody because that’s where bad decisions are made,” Verrochi said.
Online backlash has been swift and abundant with a boycott of the e-commerce site. Many people saying the term that describes remote, abundant public lands shouldn’t be trademarked.
Backcountry.com CEO Jonathan Nielsen issued an apology on the site saying in part, “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.”
Verrochi says she doesn’t feel bullied, but thinks nefarious tactics were used.
“Getting those emails never felt good. And opening them by myself and having no one and no money to turn to. I don’t believe that they should have gone after me,” she said.
Since the lawsuits have gained national attention Wild Barn Coffee has picked up support. With a new brand, Verrochi and her two co-workers are hoping growth will be in their future.
“The community has been extremely supportive. It brings the outdoor industry back to its values and it allows everyone to take a step back and realize why we’re in this business.”