Green Shift: The Politics of Brands

When the Liberal Party decided to brand their environmental policy earlier this year, they picked the name “Green Shift” …and walked right into a trade-mark lawsuit.  The mark GREEN SHIFT was already in use by a Toronto environmental consulting company.  The company promptly fired off a cease-and-desist letter, followed up by a trade-mark infringement suit in early July.  It would have been interesting, from a trade-mark law perspective, to see how a court would resolve the interplay of political brands and trade-marks. Alas, we’ll have to wait for the next case.  Election campaigns have a way of motivating settlement and yesterday the Liberal Party announced that they had resolved the dispute, and posted a notice on their site stating that: “The Liberal Party of Canada and Green Shift Inc. have resolved their dispute over the ‘Green Shift’ trademark. The Liberal Party of Canada will continue to use ‘Green Shift’ under license from Green Shift Inc.  Green Shift Inc. is not affiliated with the Liberal Party of Canada and the grant of the license does not constitute an endorsement by Green Shift Inc. of the Liberal Party of Canada.

The business issues:

  • For any new brand, trade-mark clearance searches are essential.  The Liberal Party may not have done a trade-mark search when picking a brand for their policy; it might not be standard procedure, considering that a polictical policy is not what we think of as a “product” or a “service” (not unless we’re thinking cynically).
  • This shows the increasing complexity of brands and the cost of clean-up in the wake of the launch of a new brand that hasn’t been properly screened.

Calgary – 10:30 MST

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