Base Camp vs. Basecamp: B.C., Alberta hotels in frosty fight over name
In snowmobile-mad Revelstoke, outdoor tourism is a big deal and many companies want in on the action
What's in a name?
Would a Revelstoke lodge by any other name not give visitors the same premier access to world-class snowmobiling?
Those questions are before two hospitality companies — Base Camp Guest House and Basecamp Resorts — both of which want to do business in the Southeast B.C. town.
Base Camp Guest House has been in Revelstoke since 2010 but in mid-March received a cease-and-desist letter from Basecamp Resorts which claimed the right to use the name and ordered Base Camp to call itself something else.
"We were definitely surprised," Christiane Duclos, owner of Base Camp Guest House, told Radio West host Sarah Penton.
"It just came across a very heavy handed and odd to us as we had been in business for quite a few years prior, working [under] the name."
Basecamp Resorts — the one that sent the letter — is not currently in Revelstoke. It is a Canmore, Alberta-based business with three hotels and three more under development, including one in Revelstoke.
Its lawyer said in the letter that Base Camp's name infringes on its trademark and will cause confusion among guests.
'We don't want to be seen as this big bad guy'
Duclos said she and her husband, who run Base Camp Guest House, have spent the past nine years operating the lodge as a ride-in, ride-out destination for snowmobilers at the base of Boulder Mountain.
Sky McLean, owner of Basecamp Resorts, did not want to speak in great detail about the unfolding name-blame game.
She said things may have started off poorly and admitted her lawyer's letter was somewhat hostile.
"We met with Base Camp Guest House. We did apologize for that," McLean offered in a separate interview.
McLean says her company's name has been trademarked across Canada since 2017 She called it a family business and she wants to keep its reputation intact.
"We don't want to be seen as this big bad guy and we want to be part of the community, as much as we are in Canmore."
Duclos said her business's name is registered and they did a name search which found they were the only "base camp" business. However, she admits she never got the name trademarked.
"We just thought "base camp" is so common that, first of all, can anybody really own the name, base camp?" she asked, adding there is at least one other "base camp" business in town.
Lesson for businesses
Graham Reynolds, a professor of law at the University of British Columbia, said this case is not unique and highlights the value of seeking to trademark a business name — even if it seems like the name is very common.
"There are certain limitations on [the] type some [trade]marks can register but there still is a wide scope available for parties to register terms that otherwise might seem to be just everyday, common language," Reynolds said.
Reynolds said protections for a trademarked name are much stronger than simply registering a name.
However, in disputes like these, copyright rules allow some leeway to businesses that have been using a name for some time, even if it is not trademarked.
He added companies using these cease and desist letters to get their way should also be wary of possible reputation damage from that approach, especially if they are going after a smaller company.
With files from CBC Radio One's Radio West