With three RV operations currently claiming to be direct descendants of Mark Warmoth’s original Weekend Warrior Trailer company, the RVing Examiner took a behind the scenes look at who is behind this confusing array of new Warrior businesses, where they are located, and how impending legal proceedings may impact their survival.
Southern California native Mark E. Warmoth, 57, began scrambling dirt bikes and off-roading when he was just nine years old. After graduating from Brea Olinda High School, Warmoth spent over a decade honing his skills at Johnnie Crean’s Alfa Leisure Inc., before founding his own fledgling travel trailer business, Warrior Manufacturing, which ultimately morphed into a 2500 strong, one hundred million dollar toy hauler business that produced some 6,000 trailers a year at its peak. Under Warmoth’s leadership, Weekend Warrior’s star burned fast and blazed bright before Comerica Bank called in its loans in July 2008 at a time when gas prices were ballooning (the U.S. average price for regular gasoline climbed to an all-time high of $4.11 per gallon in July) and the U.S. economy was still in the midst of a protracted recession.
Warrior’s explosive growth resulted in significant cash flow and quality assurance issues which, in turn, spawned a series of legal challenges including a class action lawsuit (against both Weekend Warrior Trailers Inc. and its chassis maker, the Zieman Manufacturing Company, a subsidiary of Lippert Components Inc.), a censure from the NHTSA for non compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, and an IRS challenge to Weekend Warriors use of an “S corporation” — Leading Edge Design Inc. to provide management services –that’s still ongoing some five years after the company was forced to shutter its operations. “We were sloppy. We had ten years of major growth and we were caught with our pants down,” said Warmoth, who chatted recently with the RVing Examiner. “We had no business getting in bed with a bank,” he added somewhat ruefully.
Undaunted by such a calamitous business failure and apparently genuinely repentant for the world of hurt rained on former Warrior customers and dealers alike, Warmoth returned to the travel trailer manufacturing businesses within a couple of years of the closure of Weekend Warrior and is currently involved with two separate business entities that utilize the “Warrior” name. Caldwell, Idaho-based Extreme Warrior — a fifty-one percent partnership with Donny Day — was previously operated by Day and Jim Homburger as “Extreme RV” trailers. Warmoth intends to use the facility to manufacture additional models for his Extreme Warrior travel trailer product line, but due to a short-term lack of working capital has temporarily mothballed the operation.
Warmoth is also involved in a business collaboration with California-based Warrior Lifestyles — in partnership with Larry Broyles (a former GM at Weekend Warrior Inc.) — a company which specializes in Weekend Warrior, Rage’n and Extreme RV spare parts as well as touting a nifty line of Warrior Lifestyle merchandising paraphernalia. Both Rage’n — a luxury toy hauler manufacturer formerly based in Riverside, CA — along with the Recreational Vehicles Division of the Long Beach, CA-based KIT Manufacturing Company were acquired by Warmoth’s Weekend Warrior Company prior to its closure in ‘08.
Although Elkhart, Indiana-based Weekend Warrior RV Manufacturing — aka Weekend Warrior RV Toy Haulers — are using the Weekend Warrior brand name and utilising a winged logo that bears a remarkable resemblance to Warmoth’s original, the company is not associated with the former Weekend Warrior Trailers Inc. in any way, shape, or form except for the inclusion of Casey Torres in the company’s sales management line-up. Torres graduated from UC San Diego before joining Mark Warmoth’s sales team at Weekend Warrior and — in the intervening years since that company’s demise — has further enhanced his sales credentials with stints at Skyline Corporation, Heartland RV LLC and Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc.
Other key players in the Elkhart start-up include Brandon Ambris — President of Weekend Warrior RV Mfg. and co-owner of RV Surplus — who has worked in the RV industry for a number of years including, a stint as CEO of Sturgis, Michigan-based Hyper Lite Trailers Inc. Claude M. Donati — the President of NeXus RV (the company that is currently building Weekend Warrior trailers in Indiana) — is the CEO of Weekend Warrior RV Mfg. and he is joined on the distribution side by Frank Barouti, Vice President of Montclair, California-based Giant RV. A leading Golden State recreational vehicle dealership whose relationship with Warmoth’s original company was almost symbiotic.
On April 16, 2013, Donati filed a trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for the right to use the term “Weekend Warrior,” and the application was published in the Official Gazette on September 10, 2013. Whilst Donati is, of course, allowed to file to use any business name, it certainly seems a little disingenuous to take advantage of the cachet associated with the former Warrior brand, especially given the fact that Warmoth’s Weekend Warrior Trailers Inc. has not only used the Warrior moniker continuously since April 1988 but has held the legal right to the Weekend Warrior name since August, 1999 (the trademark lapsed briefly but was renewed in March 2001). Warmoth’s company also held rights to the brand names; Road Warrior, Stealth, Full Throttle, Ultrabed and Weekend Warrior Wide Lite.
Whilst all the Weekend Warrior trademarks have since lapsed, the USPTO website states that applications for the right to use a particular trade name can be denied for a variety of reasons, not least where “a likelihood of confusion exists when (1) the marks are similar, and (2) the goods and/or services of the parties are related such that consumers would mistakenly believe they come from the same source.” As a consequence, Warrior Lifestyles has filed a notice of opposition to Donati’s application with the USPTO Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. “We’re denying their claim to use the name,” said Warmoth. “Shame on them,” he added.
The use, or appropriation, of Intellectual Property is a pretty thorny area and it’s certainly not unheard of in the increasingly competitive global RV industry. In 2011, China’s Wuyi Tiandi Motion Apparatus Co (TDR Moto) began brazenly marketing and selling a counterfeit copy of Brevard, North Carolina-based Sylvan Sport’s “Go” camping trailer — they even used copies of Sylvan Sports original sales brochures — much to the chagrin of company president, Tom Dempsey.
Warmoth was keen to make his position on the IP issue crystal clear. “I think that products and choices in the market place are wonderful (for) customers and it helps the industry. But I don’t want them [Weekend Warrior RV Mfg] using my name.” Warmoth actually seemed fascinated by the unfolding situation. “It’s going to be interesting to find out what makes a Weekend Warrior a Weekend Warrior,” he added.
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