Volagi courts public opinion

It appears Specialized Bicycle’s intellectual property lawsuit against Volagi will be a high profile knockdown dragout as Volagi’s principles use social media to tell their side of the story.

Barley Forsman and Robert Choi left Specialized Bicycles in 2010 to begin their own bike company with a unique road bike designed for the long distance endurance rider. Both have years of experience in the fitness industry, and Choi in particular has been in the bicycle industry designing accessories for long distance and touring cyclists since the 1980s.

A month after they announced their first bike, Specialized filed suit against Forsman and Choi. Specialized claims Volagi’s frame design was stolen from Specialized, while Choi and Forsman claim they were not involved in frame design at Specialized and came up with their innovations independently of their work for the Morgan Hill bike company. The civil trial began yesterday in San Jose.

Volagi co-founder Barley Forsman posted details about his work and history a Specialized to his company’s Facebook page last night, and this morning they posted info about “The Lawsuit” to their blog.

The Facebook posting is especially informative. I’ve copied the contents below:

By Barley Forsman (Volagi Co-founder)
Jan, 4th, 2012

Specialized is suing us (Robert Choi, Barley Forsman, and Volagi, LLC) – whew, there I said it!! It’s been a long, very rough road and we’ve paid through the teeth for the privilege. But we are endurance athletes and will endure.

Well over a year ago, exactly one month after we launched Volagi at InterBike 2010, a man approached the front door of my house, knocked on my door, handed me a folder, and told me that I “had been served”. I was shocked and dumbfounded as I struggled to decipher the legal jargon presented to me – what could I have possibly done wrong?! There was no warning, no call, no e-mail, no letter, no ‘cease and desist’ – just a lawsuit.

Robert and I have known each other since 1997 – when he hired me as a designer at Bell Sports (now, Bell-Easton). We have a long history of innovation – long before we even considered a position at Specialized. Before joining Bell, Robert started a company called VistaLite in 1989 that pioneered flashing safety lights for bicycles – which he eventually sold to Bell. I worked with Robert at CamelBak for almost 10 years. At CamelBak we helped to redefine the hydration industry, several times. Combined, we have nearly 40 patents to our names – all amassed long before joining Specialized.

In 2008, we joined Specialized (ironically, I started 1 day before Robert). Robert was hired as “Director of Equipment” and I was hired as “Design Manager”. Robert’s primary responsibilities included product development for accessories: bottles, pumps, tools, tires, and some components (briefly). My primary responsibility was to act as the design resource for saddles, grips, bottles, bottle cages, etc. – again, mostly equipment. Aside, for a few top-tube shapes on a few entry level aluminum mountain bikes, I had no involvement in bike design and engineering. As a designer, I was not responsible for, nor did I have access to carbon engineering or manufacturing of carbon bicycles while at Specialized.

The impetus for starting Volagi was born from a general discontentment from working at Specialized (and the Specialized ‘method’ of product creation), but more importantly, we wanted to create a company that focused solely on the type of riding that we love: endurance road cycling. We are AVID distance cyclists who have completed many difficult endurance events including: Paris Brest Paris (760 non-stop miles), The Furnace Creek 508 (508 non-stop miles), over 60 doubles in California alone, many, many ‘brevets’, and countless centuries. Needless to say, we have put a lot of time in the saddle.

We wanted to start a company that focused on the real, everyday cyclist – a performance bicycle specifically suited to our type of riding. If you want a bike for the Tour de France, there are a lot of options out there for you, but that is not us. It’s a small but fundamental difference in our approach to the road cycling market: what works best for Lance may not work the best for you.

So why is Specialized suing us?! Truth is, we’re still trying to figure that out. But here are some basic facts about Volagi and our bike:

- The Volagi bicycle was not designed, engineered, or created at Specialized, or with any Specialized equipment or know-how.
- Robert and I were not involved in engineering or design meetings at Specialized about bicycles while we were there.
- The Liscio was never presented or shown to Specialized because we did not have it while we worked there.
- The bicycle was designed and engineered AFTER we gave notice at Specialized (at that time we informed Specialized that we would be starting a company in the bicycling industry).
- The Volagi Liscio patent was filed AFTER we left Specialized (by us).
- Volagi was not registered as a company until after we gave notice.
- We have made many attempts to resolve this (or any issue) with Specialized. It was never our plan (or desire) to have it go this far – we never thought it would.
- We took names of bicycles shops that were listed in a Specialized database (that is really the extent of our evil deeds, and we admit this wrong-doing and have returned everything). FYI, all this information is readily available online, but we want to come clean.

Again, these are the facts as we know them and we are confident that the truth will prevail in court. It is a shame that we have been forced to defend ourselves for this long. We have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and sold our houses to finance all the legal proceedings – we will not allow Specialized to bully us out of existence. This is our dream and we will fight to the end to keep it.

We’re not asking for your sympathy or your pity – we know in our heart what is right. But we would like to supply some relevant facts so you can make up your own mind about the situation. In the end, we only want to compete in the marketplace. We want to give cyclist the options to choose what bicycle they think is best for them – no smoke, no mirrors, just truth.

We have, and will continue to have “The Will to Go!”

Regards and tailwinds,

Barley

12 Comments

  • January 5, 2012 - 11:44 am | Permalink

    Specialized is posting a lot on FB today, all unrelated. There are also  numerous pro Volagi  digs on the Specialized Facebook page as well. It will be interesting to see how long they stay there.

  • January 5, 2012 - 12:02 pm | Permalink

    I see that now too. I betcha their marketing people hate the lawsuit.

  • Pingback: Latest on the Suit… « Volagi Cycles

  • Max Power
    January 6, 2012 - 9:32 pm | Permalink

    Any of those civics class lessons about IP laws “defending the rights of inventors” is long gone.  Patents are mainly a bludgeon to crush your competitors now.
    I hope the guys at Volagi have another defense when they go to trial.  It doesn’t matter that they didn’t work with the frame teams – you don’t have to prove that a patent infringer intended to copy the patented design, or that the infringer even knew about the existence of the patent, just that the design is similar.

    If you’re interested in the abusive nature of IP, you may want to read against Intellectual Monopoly
    http://www.dklevine.com/general/intellectual/againstfinal.htm

  • bikesgonewild
    January 11, 2012 - 3:02 am | Permalink

    …volagi’s cosmetics (paint scheme) are exceedingly close to certain ‘specialized’ designs but the frameset has features unlike anything produced by the s-works brand…

    …beyond that, the similarities are the same as most bicycles produced by hundreds of companies from around the world…a basic diamond frame & i doubt even mikey boy’s lawers can claim that as “intellectual property”…

  • bikesgonewild
    January 11, 2012 - 3:12 am | Permalink

    …fritz-san…why in heavens name are the comments posted in such teeny, tiny little letters…they are ridiculously & uncomfortably so, being literally 1/2 the size of the articles you post…

    …if i continue to comment, I’M GONNA DO IT IN ALL CAPS SO MY COMMENTS CAN BE READ WITHOUT A MAGNIFYING GLASS !!!…

  • January 11, 2012 - 10:24 am | Permalink

    Hey BGW! I use a plugin provided by Disqus for the comments. I’ll see if I can increase the text size — to be honest, I have a hard time reading this text too.

  • January 11, 2012 - 12:31 pm | Permalink

    You have a page-wide “font: 62.5%”.

  • January 11, 2012 - 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Yes I do. Thanks.

    Is the text too large now?

  • January 11, 2012 - 4:01 pm | Permalink

    I think it is fine though it looks best to me if you just leave it all at normal.  Take the font size adjustments out of both the body and .entry-content.

  • January 11, 2012 - 4:17 pm | Permalink

    That’s why they pay me the big bucks *not* to do web design. I *really* appreciate the hand with this, Stuart.

  • January 11, 2012 - 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Anytime.

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