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.
This is to confirm our conversation of a few minutes ago.
To begin, thanks for being cooperative; it’s really appreciated when someone on “the other side” is reasonable and constructive in responding to a problem.
More formally, this will confirm that you indicated that you do in fact operate theshiftygreen.ca website, and more to the point that you agreed to remove all occurrences of the Liberal Party of Canada logo (a registered Trademark) from the website within the next hour or so.
As indicated in our discussion, I provide my contact information below. Please let me know as soon as possible, if for any reason all instances of the Trademark are not removed from the site within he time frame discussed.
Thanks again for your cooperation.
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.