Andrea Perez Balderrama, Detroit Free Press — July 8, 2019. Erik Rintamaki has been credited with the first verified finding of sodalite-rich syenite rocks in Michigan last year. He found these glowing rocks on a Lake Superior beach near Brimley, MI and decided to name them Yooperlites.
Rintamaki has since built a business around the rocks by giving rock-hunting tours and selling merchandise online. He even trademarked the name and established his own rock brand.
The word Yooperlite is now Rintamaki’s intellectual property, but Jason Asselin, a self-proclaimed content creator and online personality from upper Michigan, is not having it.
“He spread the name of this rock as being a ‘Yooperlite,’ then went ahead and trademarked the word,” Asselin said in an email to the Free Press. “He says no one may use the word in any fashion.”
According to both Asselin and Rintamaki, Asselin got a cease-and-desist order from Rintamaki’s lawyer after he tried to sell Yooperlites on Etsy without Rintamaki’s permission.
In a YouTube video posted on June 21, Asselin claims that Rintamaki is trying to personally profit from the word. He believes this is disrespectful to Upper Michigan residents, affectionately known as Yoopers. “If I did not trademark … I would’ve been sued for $360,000 for using a word that I invented,” Rintamaki said. “The technical term for these stones is a syenite rich in fluorescent sodalite. Yooperlite is my brand of fluorescent sodalite from Michigan.”
Rintamaki says that anyone can apply for permission to sell the rocks under the name Yooperlites.
“If he wanted to use (the name) online he would have to become an authorized vendor, and there is a process for that,” Rintamaki said. “I am willing to work with anyone.”
In protest, Asselin now wants to refer to these fluorescent rocks as Lake Shore Emberlites. He even started a now-defunct GoFundMe campaign to trademark the name.