kayak.jpgLos Angeles – Outdoor clothing retailer Eddie Bauer is the defendant in a trademark lawsuit filed by First Descents.  The Colorado-based non-profit is accusing Bauer of trademark infringement for the similarity of its brand names, First Ascent and First Descent.

First Descents was founded in 2001 by professional kayaker Brad Ludden, to help young adults with cancer experience whitewater kayaking.  Since then, the organization has expanded to include activities such as surfing and rock climbing.  First Descents obtained common law trademark rights in 2001 when it was a regional organization.  In September 2008, the non-profit filed to trademark its new camp apparel, citing first use in 2001.  The United States Patent and Trademark Office suspended the application as a result of the trademark applications filed by Eddie Bauer just months before.

The following year, Bauer launched First Ascent, a line of technical apparel, co-designed by ski and mountain experts.  Shortly after the launch of Bauer’s new line, First Descents, Inc. claimed there was consumer confusion.  In a press release from First Descents, it stated: “When Eddie Bauer launched its ‘First Ascent’ and ‘First Descent’ product lines, and began marketing efforts at the same events where we had an established presence, our ability to distinguish our organization and its First Descents outdoor adventure therapy programs was lost.”

Seattle-based Eddie Bauer is claiming it has had exclusive rights to the First Ascent trademark since 1988, long before the existence of First Descents, Inc..  Registration of the trademark was granted to Bauer earlier this year.

“We were surprised and disappointed by the lawsuit and press releases from First Descents, Inc.,” read from a statement from Bauer.  “We fully support First Descents as a non-profit organization and we want them to be successful in their mission…We are interested in resolving this in a manner that is satisfactory for both parties.”