The name game: Sequim retailer would rather switch than fight
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Mike Wanner of Mike’s Bikes in Sequim is changing his shop’s name because a California chain trademarked the “Mike’s Bikes” name. -- Photo by Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– Mike Wanner, who placed his own moniker on the bike shop he opened 12 years ago, has been told he doesn’t have the right to use his own name for his business.

It’s owned by somebody else. “Mike’s Bikes,” the name of his shop on 150 West Sequim Bay Road, is the trademark of a chain of California bike shops.

Instead of opting for a drawn-out court battle, Wanner has started a contest, offering $200 for the best alternative suggestion for a new name for his store, a bicycle dealership and repair shop that is on the Olympic Discovery Trail.

“How many guys named Mike have opened up bike shops across the country?” Wanner, 51, asked rhetorically.

Twenty-two, according to Google.

“Any guy named Mike who opens a bike shop is going to call it Mike’s Bikes,” said Mike Whaley, owner of a motorcycle shop in Gering, Neb., called, of course, Mike’s Bikes.

But only one has the trademark for it: the California chain of Mike’s Bikes, which has been around since 1964 and has 11 locations in northern California.

Wanner received a letter last month from attorneys for the California chain demanding he change his business’ name.

The words “Mike” and “bike” are too common to register for a trademark, Wanner said, “but my attorney said I can’t use a combination of the two” because the term “Mike’s Bikes” can be registered.

Messages requesting comment from executives with the California Mike’s Bikes were not returned.

Wanner asked the California chain to let him keep the Mike’s Bikes name for his shop for another five years in exchange for giving up his website name, www.mikes-bikes.net.

“I figured I’d be about ready to retire in five years, and the new guy could put his name on the shop,” Wanner said.

“But they said forget it.”

Thus, the name contest.

Wanner is taking suggestions through email at mikesbikes@olympus.net or on the (Sequim) Mike’s Bikes Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mikes.bikes1.

“We need help thinking of a new name,” the shop’s Facebook entry says.

“It needs to be short, simple, and not used by another bike shop in the United States.”

The winning entry will receive a $200 gift certificate to the store.

For more information about the contest, drop by the shop or phone 360-681-3868.

Wanner is looking for something short and snappy, preferably a name that includes the word “bikes.”

“‘Bikes’ is just easier to say and remember than ‘cycles,’” he said.

The new name also must pass muster with the Federal Trademark Commission.

“That’s kind of obvious, right?” Wanner asked.

Once he chooses a new name, Wanner must order new signs, pay to register the business’ new name with the secretary of state, buy new shirts for him and his two employees, and find something to do with the boxes of Mike’s Bikes water bottles he ordered for his store.

It isn’t the first time attorneys have leaned on a North Olympic Peninsula business because of a trademark.

On Sept. 11, 2007, the U.S. Olympic Committee attorney sent a letter to Kathy Charlton, principal owner of Olympic Cellars of Port Angeles, telling her she had to relinquish her winery’s name because Congress had given the committee exclusive control of the word “Olympic,” with one exception.

Businesses on the Olympic Peninsula can use it — but locally only.

By the following August, the winery emerged from a fight with what Charlton’s attorney called “the 900-pound gorilla” with a settlement that allowed her to operate as Olympic Cellars and sell wine on the Internet as long as sales and marketing were not deemed “substantial.”

Charlton wasn’t completely happy with the compromise, saying it restricted growth, but she felt that changing the name would have meant “shedding our heritage” and “giving in.”

In the case of Mike’s Bikes, some owners, like Wanner and Mike Bishop in Phoenicia, N.Y., have decided to change their store’s names without a legal fight.

“I got better things to do than go to court — like building bikes,” Bishop said.

Bishop changed his store’s name to Outspoken, though he said he will leave the Mike’s Bikes sign on his summer shop.

Mike’s Bikes in St. Louis has decided to add an STL to its name to distinguish itself, said an employee of the store who would only be identified as Matt.

At the bottom of the St. Louis store’s website, it has added the phrase: “Mike’s Bikes STL has no affiliation with Mike’s Bikes of San Rafael or any of its California locations.”

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 09. 2013 5:42PM
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