'Spinning' Trademarked; Gyms Being Threatened For Holding Spinning Classes Sans License

from the ride-that-bike dept

If you’ve been to a gym lately, you’ve probably seen how “spinning” classes have become quite popular these days. When I first heard of them, I couldn’t figure out why they called them “spinning,” rather than just “stationary bike” classes, but now I know: apparently “spinning” is a trademarked term, held by a company called Mad Dogg Athletics, and the company is gaining a reputation for trying to enforce that trademark around the globe. If you look at the USPTO, the company appears to have a ton of different trademarks on “spinning,” covering not just exercise classes, but also sports drinks, lotions and creams, nutritional supplements and computer software. It looks like the original spinning trademark was filed for back in 1992 — so it’s entirely possible that this company really did come up with the term and popularize it.

However, it seems that many people now feel that the term really has become generic, and I’d have to agree. I’ve known about “spinning classes” for ages, but never had any idea it was associated with any particular company — until now. And that’s only because an anonymous reader sent in this story of how Mad Dogg has had lawyers threatening gyms in Denmark (Google translation of the original Danish). The Danish gyms seem pretty upset by this, arguing that “spinning” has become a common generic word, and no one associates it with Mad Dogg at all. It also appears that nearly all of the gyms contacted have simply decided to call their stationary bike classes something else, rather than give in and pay a licensing fee just to call a spinning class a spinning class.

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Companies: mad dogg athletics

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Comments on “'Spinning' Trademarked; Gyms Being Threatened For Holding Spinning Classes Sans License”

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Triste says:

Re: The original spinning classes

In reality, the Spinning classes are called Spinning because you have to go through a certification process… anyone can get on a bike and ‘paddle’ but it takes more than that to call it Spinning. Try going to the conference MDA holds every year in Miami, you will see that it’s a mind & body class. Otherwise, you can just call it ‘indoor cycling’ which doesn’t even compare to a Spinning Class.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is actually a good example of why companies with trademarks need to protect them. The risk is that a term that you trademarked because a generic term rather than a trademarked term.

They got the trademark as far back as 1992, but it appears took them 18+ years to really get around to enforcing it. Sadly for them, they look to have little protection because they didn’t enforce the trademark as they should have.

NickMc says:

Please help my tiny brain

When the USPTO issues a patent, surely it must apply to just the U.S. Right? Surely the USPTO can’t issue patents for other countries. The rest of the world must issue their own. So does someone requesting a patent have to apply in every jurisdiction. I just find it hard to believe that the buffoons at the USPTO have worldwide authority to issue stupid patents. Can someone please fill me in. Thanks

Michael (profile) says:

The original spinning classes

…and I just saw kids playing pin the tail on the donkey!

That part just after putting on the blindfold and just before pinning the tail – I believe they call that a trademark violation.

There was a similar move with the pi?ata later that day, but I don’t think you file lawsuits against someone blindly swinging a stick.

Michael (profile) says:


Between 1992 and, well, probably 2005, they suffered from obscurity. Once they finally got their term known they complain that too many people use it?

This is like the people that release free music on the internet to get their name out and then complain once they have some popularity that pirates are stealing their art. If nobody else could have used the term “spinning” for the past 18 years, it is pretty likely we would be calling it a stationary bike class and if someone said “spinning” we would conjure up images of someone making yarn.

Anonymous Coward says:

I can see how this trademark would be valid if they had tried to enforce it for the past 18 years. This company developed a very specific exercise class and in theory if you are attending a “spinning” class you are attending a class that conforms to that very specific workout and is taught by someone certified to do so. That is one of the points of trademarks. You get what you believe you are going to get. You don’t sign up for a spinning class and get some guy pedalling a bike that knows nothing of the actual thinking behind the workout. Reebok used to have the same type of thing with their STEP aerobics classes. Gyms might have an aerobic class with steps but if the class was advertised as a STEP class you knew what you were getting.

The problem here is that they don’t seem to have tried to enforce there trademark for 18 years so the term spinning has become a generic term with no real trademark value.

Ron Rezendes (profile) says:

Just applied for a trademark...

I think I’ll trademark the terms “Pedaling” and “Pedal Class” just in case the USPTO isn’t paying attention (OK that’s a given) so that when everyone renames their spin classes I’ll be poised to corner the market and I’ll only charge $1.00 per month to use the phrase. Too small for most to complain about and convenient enough they’ll want to use it. Multiply that figure by thousands of gyms and I think i can afford to retire!!

JTO (profile) says:

Spinning IS a generic term

What BS. As a competitive cyclist in the 80s and 90s, everyone on the team would groan when we saw “SPINNING” or “SPIN” on the training schedule. That would mean 2 straight hours of hammering away on stationary bikes, trainers, or rollers. We were actually judged on distance, but heart-rate monitors were a fortune at the time. While they’re at it, why don’t they trademark “dual-suspension”, “cruiser bike”, and “asshat”?

art guerrilla says:

term 'spinning'

thank you, anon… besides the use of the word as you explained, i know of a similar usage from long ago…

back in the day -when eddie mercx was the reigning hero- i pretended to be into road racing for a while, and ‘spinning’ was a common term used for the technique of maintaining a constant cadence… the idea was to use the gearing to maintain -more or less- the same high pace/foot RPM, regardless of the topography… (obviously, at extreme grades, there was less ‘spinning’ and more ‘humping’…)

in short, i heard/read of ‘spinning’ in context with road bikes as the technique to use in pedaling, decades before there were ‘spinning’ classes in gyms…

this whole idea of trademarks trumping society is so specious…

art guerrilla ™
aka ann archy ™
eof ™

Marcus Carab (profile) says:


Spinning as a training technique for cyclists and Spinning as a fitness class are 2 seperate things

That seems like a bit of a stretch. “Training for cyclists” is still fitness. Does the fact that one group is exercising for a different purpose than the other really make it two entirely separate things that could be separately trademarked?

Seems like in that case trademark would be causing customer confusion, not preventing it.

Melissa D (profile) says:


As a former employee of Mad Dogg I take umbrage in the lack of knowledge here pertaining to some of the comments in this thread. While the term spinning is related to cycling outdoors, Spinning was also the term coined by Johnny Goldberg and John Baudhuin in the early 90’s (even late 1980’s Johnny was teaching Spinning in his garage), the creators and brains behind group indoor cycling to brand this type of group fitness exercise. The term was trademarked so that it would distinguish them from competitive brands that would obviously come along in the future. Spinning is a very specific program based on hand position, cadence, specific movements, etc. The Spinner bike and the program go hand in hand. When you partake in a Spinning class, you know you are getting quality instruction that is safe. There are some crazy instructors out there who have no training whatsover but call themselves spinning instructors. Why would Mad Dogg want to ruin their good reputation because someone thinks that spinning is generic. It is very difficult for Mad Dogg to police the world to make sure their trademark is not being misused. It’s when someone makes them aware of the misuse that they contact the faciltiy or company only to educate tehm and ask they stop misusing their trademark. As they are the trademark owner, it is law that allows them to protect their brand, just as Apple (another “word” that has been trademarkd) is allowed to protect their brand of computer…just saying

melissa d (profile) says:


One second, two seconds.. anyone can trademark a word as long as you’ve got the money and a cause. The way that you use the term “sitting here spinning my wheels” does not pertain to anything but the wheels spinning. As soon as the term spinning relates to indoor cycling or indoor cycling products, it becomes a trademark and should be used only when referring to the specific “Spinning” indoor cycling program. So, if you are the inventor of a product or service, it is advantageous, if you’ve got the money to get it trademarked. Here’s some education on trademark registration straight from the U.S. Patent and Trademark website – notice the third line first two words “any word”.

What is a trademark or service mark?
In short, a trademark is a brand name. A trademark includes any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used, or intended to be used, in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others, and to indicate the source of the goods. A service mark is any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used, or intended to be used, in commerce, to identify and distinguish the services of one provider from services provided by others, and to indicate the source of the services.

Must all marks be registered?
No, but federal registration has several advantages, including a notice to the public of the registrant’s claim of ownership of the mark, a legal presumption of ownership nationwide, and the exclusive right to use the mark on or in connection with the goods or services set forth in the registration.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:


A few people have been calling the original trademark into question and I agree with you that they are probably wrong: I absolutely see the initial value and validity of the “Spinning” trademark. In fact it’s a perfect example of what trademarks are for and why they are a good thing.

But at the same time, it seems like the argument that the trademark has now become generic is quite valid as well. The fact that protecting their mark was difficult does not excuse the fact that they failed to protect it: it has now become a pretty generic term. It is difficult to protect any popular brand, and yet you don’t see hundreds of competitors offering “Apple” computers do you? So clearly Mad Dogg didn’t protect it as well as they could have.

I totally understand their desire to continue defending it, but I think that if one of these gyms were to take this to court and argue that the mark has become generic, they would have a very good chance of winning at this point.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:


The ease with which a name was coined doesn’t make the trademark less valid, unless of course the name is purely descriptive. I suppose you could argue that “spinning” is simply a description of biking, but you’d be hard put to demonstrate that – it’s not exactly the first verb most people think of to describe biking, and it also describes a hell of a lot of things other than stationary bikes.

While I do think the mark could be invalidated as generic now, originally it seems like a pretty good use of trademark law.

JB (profile) says:


Far from being a company trying to capitalize on something that they didn’t create, Mad Dogg Athletics is actually the company that created the Spinning program and the Spinner line of bikes. Why shouldn’t the company continue to benefit from and protect the brand that it created, protected and has popularized over the past 20 years? Brands serve an important purpose, namely to differentiate a company?s products and services from those of their competitors. Since Mad Dogg coined the name ?Spinning? for its indoor cycling program back in 1989, isn?t it the clubs that are trying to take a free ride off of the goodwill that Mad Dogg created? Mad Dogg is a well-run at company that employs about 80 people and spends a tremendous amount of time giving back to the community. As the company that created the indoor cycling category, it?s great to see that they are protecting their brand against the never-ending list of sub-par clubs that are willing to compromise the quality of their classes and instructors to save a few bucks. For the record, Mad Dogg does not charge a per-class or annual licensing fee. To be a Spinning licensee, the company merely asks that a club have Spinner bikes and instructors that have been trained by Spinning. There?s a reason why Spinner bikes and the Spinning program are the worldwide leaders in indoor cycling bikes and education? they?re simply the best.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

prior art..?

I wish everyone wasn’t trying to tear apart this trademark – it’s really not a bad trademark at all.

A trademark is not claiming “invent” a word. And this trademark was not on all “apparatus that utilized wheels and pedals” but on their very specific line of exercise bikes, the associated workout plans, and several tertiary products. They believe their equipment and approach to be the best (I cannot speak to this point, but it is their unique manufacture, good or bad) and so they wish to distinguish it in the marketplace with a unique name. So they chose a word which, yes, has some associations to bicycles, but which was by no means a common term used to refer to them (much less exercise bikes), and made it their brand.

This is exactly what trademarks are for, and they benefit both the company and the consumer: if someone tries several exercise bike classes and discovers that they like Spinning the best (or the least), then they can confidently do it again (or avoid it) in the future by looking for its unique trademark. When they see “Spinning”, they know its going to be the same as or similar to the class they took before. The company is rewarded with a good reputation if they provide quality a quality service/product, and the consumer is able to make a more informed choice.

This is good. Trademarks, all in all, are the most balanced field of intellectual property – except when people start trying to extend their reach.

But that’s not even what Mad Dogg is doing here. They are exercising their trademark in exactly the right way, and that’s their right. The only real issue here is whether or not the trademark has become a generic term, which under the law invalidates it. Some examples include Aspirin, Zipper, Thermos and Kerosene – all of which were originally trademark names but were deemed generic once they entered common usage to such a degree that people commonly referred to all similar products by the same name.

So the question here is whether or not that’s what happened to “Spinning”. It certainly seems possible since many people (including myself) had no idea it was a brand name. Ultimately this may be tested in court, however given the low stakes, it’s likely that nobody will fight it and the gyms that get threatened will simply change the name as they have been doing.

mary says:

Don't even try to sell a "spinning" bike.

While I understand that Maddogg athletics has a trademark on “spinning”, I think in some cases they have gone too far in enforcing their rights. I was selling a used upright exercise bike, the kind used for “spinning” classes, on ebay. This was my own personal bike that I purchased. I am not a retailer of exercise equipment, nor was I trying to make a profit. I was simply trying to get rid of some household items. Within 2 days of listing my bike it was removed from ebay due to a trademark infringement. I used the word “spinning” to describe the type of bike I was selling. I was threatened that I might lose my rights to sell on ebay if I did this again. Honestly, I had no idea what I had done until I researched it a bit.

jan.filein says:

Latest Development

The same thing what happened in Denmark is happening also in here in Czech Republic. But… ultratiny company Aerospinning Master Franchising is fiercely fighting back. And so far it seems to be successful.

Despite swarms of Mad Dog Athletics lawyers they managed to
– get “Aerospinning” trademark registered with WIPO (MDA fights back in an effort to remove it)
– challenge the “SPINNING” at court due to being generic ( http://esearch.oami.europa.eu/copla/trademark/data/000175117 – cancellation pending)
– Czech Trademark Office issued cancellation of SPINNING trademark for Czech Republic (MDA is currently having a grace time for an appeal)

So if you thing that this tiny company is right show them your love: http://facebook.com/gofitness.cz (MDA issued take down notice for http://facebook.com/aerospinning so they are using the main gym’s FB page)

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