The Liberal Party and alleged trademark infringement

Last Thursday, on day behind schedule, the Liberal Party unveiled their “Green Shift” plan to caucus and to the national media. Liberal friends tell me that their leader finally gave the best performance of his career as party leader despite his later communications stumbles when asked to defend the plan on CBC’s National and The House.

The Liberals also launched a website at thegreenshift.ca to provide a location where Canadians could download their plan. I thought that the site was ripe for parody and a good-natured ribbing so I immediately registered theshiftygreen.ca and went to work creating a knock-off of their website from a humourous and cynical point of view. The site, uh, shifted focus from the lofty and abstract environmental claims of the “Green Shift” plan to what it really is, a fiscal outline of the Liberal’s election platform. The site included the blog of Stephane Dion’s new dog “Revenue Neutred” and encouraged Canadians to submit their emails and “sign up for behaviour modification”. The site was quite successful and captured the attention of the Toronto Star, National Newswatch and the blogging community.

There was one slight snag, however. In knocking-off the Liberal website, I neglected to “knock-off” the Liberal logo enough to satisfy the legal concerns of the Liberal Party. I received a call from their lawyer letting me know that my use of their logo poses trademark concerns and we very amicably agreed that the solution to their dilemma would be to create a derivative work of their logo. I received the following email to confirm the conversation.

The telephone call was a nice courtesy from the Liberals and I recognized that I may have been in error and I set out to create a different version of their logo to compliment the site. Here is the original:

and the changed version:

I even called the lawyer back to confirm that the logo was changed enough to satisfy their requirements. He assured me that the logo was different enough from the Liberal brand and thanked me for the cooperation. He joked that he even laughs and encourages his own team to do similar parodies of Conservatives when the opportunity arises.

Now, I read with great interest that the Liberal Party is in a trademark snafu of their own. Apparently, the term “Green Shift” belongs to a Toronto-based company that is:

“Developing a looping support network of Responsible, Ethical Companies in order to Shift us into a world where capitalism is more in harmony with nature, and where success is defined by more than greed.”

Here is the trademark registration of “Green Shift”

The company has complained,

“For us to take this further (against the Liberals), it’s a David and Goliath problem,” Wright said. “We’re fine on our own, without any political affiliation. We’ve done everything to build our name on trust and integrity.”

Stephane Dion’s communications director Mark Dunn said of the “Green Shift” name use,

“A courtesy call was made last Monday in advance of (the) launch to let them know they might get increased traffic”

Those Liberals are so courteous, don’t you think? First they call me to let me know that I’ve allegedly run afoul of their trademark rights (I complied immediately), and now the Liberals aren’t budging when someone else comes calling protesting the allegedly inappropriate use of their brand.

A Liberal spokesman discounted the company’s protests that the Liberals mimicked Green Shift’s web domain name, by adding the article “the” before Greenshift.ca.

“We rightly own the domain name,” said Dunn. “We are not a commercial threat to the company. The content of our site is about policy, not products.”

While one site is about products and one site is about policy, both sites are about the environment. The Liberals would have a better defence (but it would still be faulty) if they argued that the “green” in “green shift” referred to hard-earned money earned by families that drive their kids to soccer practice rather than a reference to environmental sustainability.

The Liberals should promptly and cooperatively comply with the concerns of Green Shift Inc.

  • George in Fredericton

    Something to think about for Liberals

    Some choice , We can select an arrogant , self centered , academic Ignatieff, who thought it better to take his intelligence to any place in the world for thirty years; rather than share with Canadian students who might have benefitted from his teaching. Now he's back and wants to make sure he gets all the retirement benefits any freeloader can get from being a Canadian.

    OR

    We can choose Mr. Rae , who's obvious only concern is that he be the boss. After the Ontario Provincial NDP concluded he messed up that province long enough they let him go, so he could run immediately for the Federal liberals. NOT too much difference in ideology here.

    Maybe Dominic LeBlanc at least will represent a different vision from the old guard Liberals, but he is a totally unknown functionary with limited personal experience. Does he have what it takes to be in charge of a party with no direction?

  • George in Fredericton

    Something to think about for Liberals

    Some choice , We can select an arrogant , self centered , academic Ignatieff, who thought it better to take his intelligence to any place in the world for thirty years; rather than share with Canadian students who might have benefitted from his teaching. Now he's back and wants to make sure he gets all the retirement benefits any freeloader can get from being a Canadian.

    OR

    We can choose Mr. Rae , who's obvious only concern is that he be the boss. After the Ontario Provincial NDP concluded he messed up that province long enough they let him go, so he could run immediately for the Federal liberals. NOT too much difference in ideology here.

    Maybe Dominic LeBlanc at least will represent a different vision from the old guard Liberals, but he is a totally unknown functionary with limited personal experience. Does he have what it takes to be in charge of a party with no direction?