from the sit-and-spin dept
Sometimes you try really hard at something and you still fail. Such is the case with Mad Dogg Athletics’ attempt to keep its “spinning” trademarks from becoming generic. We wrote about the company’s marks on stationary bike classes nearly five years ago, when it was busy suing several gyms in Denmark for offering spinning classes. In fact, both before and after those legal actions, MDA has been incredibly active in trying to enforce its trademarks. They tried really, really hard.
But the company failed. Much like other types of workout classes, nobody sees spinning as a source identifier any longer. Nobody thinks of Mad Dogg Athletics. Hell, most people haven’t even heard of MDA. But the company hasn’t given up, as shown by how it got eBay to remove a listing for an exercise bike for using the term “spin.”
VeRO is ebay’s Verified Rights Owner program. VeRO allows a right’s owner (someone who has a verified trademark, copyright, etc.) to request removal of an item. This action, of course, is not without controversy. Business owners have claimed that this process is often abused and overreaching. I will leave that discussion for another day. For now, you should know that a company by the name of Mad Dogg Athletics, Inc. (MDA) is a member of the eBay VeRO Program and uses this program to enforce the nearly one hundred trademarks it owns, which include: spin, spinning, spinner, spin yoga, spinfitness, and spin daddy. With that said, only MDA’s Spin® bike can be called that, and so my client’s “spin bike” listing was removed due to use of the word spin.
Actually going after eBay listings for using a word like “spin” would be ridiculous in its own right, but this is about something much deeper for MDA: the term spinning is generic. It just is. And it’s not like this kind of trademark-to-generic evolution is without precedent. Yoga and Pilates went through a similar transition, having been source-identifiers for consumers but soon turning into descriptions of a particular process or type of class, rather than any kind of brand. Keep in mind, as the link above notes, the test for whether a term is generic is the wider public’s perception, not the individual purchasers’ perception. Go ask someone on the street whether “spinning” is associated with any particular brand and see what reaction you get. It’s generic.
I know I am not a professional cycler by any stretch, but as someone who at least recreationally partakes in indoor cycling, I had never even heard of the MDA. I bet you if I polled the people at my class, most haven’t either. It’s also important mention that on its page for “indoor cycling,” Wikipedia states, “[i]t is commonly called spinning.” Yelp allows you to search for “spin” and “spinning studio.” ABC News refers to SoulCycle as a spin studio. For the record, they are not. I dare you to search any cycling studio’s reviews for the word “spin.” Almost every review I found seemed to use the word interchangeably.
This is a good thing. And, actually, it’s something that MDA could take advantage of, if it so desired. After all, MDA was indeed the originator of the term and it would be good business to make a marketing campaign out of its expertise with spinning. Instead, MDA appears to want to rage against the inevitable with legal action after legal action. Sadly, despite all of that effort, it isn’t going to work — and the company is just, well… spinning its wheels.