Columbia Sportswear Company have filed a complaint with the Commission of the European Union alleging that the owners of the GORE-TEX* brand W.L. Gore & Associates Inc. have abused their dominant position in the outdoor textiles market.
This recent complaint comes on the back of news that, following its own investigation in March this year, the United States Federal Trade Commission issued a subpoena to W.L. Gore & Associates Inc. for unfair practices related to contracts, exclusionary practices and other conduct related to its outdoor textiles and related products.
If true, this is a contradiction of one of the tenets that the organisation was built on. Fairness, has been central to the Gore organisations beliefs since its formation. These recent allegations will put W.L Gore & Associates Inc's culture under the spotlight and if proven should provoke some soul searching within the organisation and also see some very hefty financial penalties being brought to bear.
Certainly there appears to be a case to answer. Stories abound in the industry of manufacturers and brands being constrained to use materials and equipment supplied by the company. In addition, procedures and products are required to be verified and validated before a manufacturing or trademark license is issued. Failure to adhere to this can result in the loss of licenses and lucrative marketing support.
For too long a premium has been placed on a product that for the most part hasn't changed in over twenty years. Through skillful marketing the brand has grown to the point where it is almost impossible to find an alternative in the stores. Should the allegations be realised (which won't be any time soon), the winner of all this should be the consumer. There are many alternative and better products including components like seam tapes that are offer better performance or are less expensive, but are avoided by manufacturers, brands and retailers for fear of falling foul of unavoidable agreements.
This is an unfortunate turn of events given the work that the company did in enhancing and developing the outdoor apparel markets and professional protection. Hopefully, the situation can be resolved and the market can bounce back without too much damage being done.
*GORE-TEX is a trademark of W.L. Gore & Associates Inc.
Updated 15/06/2011 - Gore petitions to limit or quash the FTC subpoena
Gore Petitions To Quash Subpoena
Gore Subpoena Exhibits