Environmental | Copyright | Shannen Pickens

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The phrase 'going green' has seen a record number of trademark applications.

It seems as though every company is trying to make its mark on the "green" trend. In 2007 alone, marketers set a all-time record at the the US Patent and Trademark Office, registering over 300,000 green trademarks. Big trends can be tough on the trademark business, and many companies are having a difficult time locking in on the rights to their marks.

By definition, a trademark is a distinctive term that tells consumers that a product or service comes from a single source. The problem is, under the umbrella of "going green" many companies are producing similar, hard-to-distinguish marks.

Not only are companies having a difficult time securing the rights to trademarks, they are also having trouble advertising their pro-environmental viewpoints. Now that many pro-environment and green slogans are being protected, companies are running into copyright or trademark infringement issues.

In December of 2009, Honda released an advertising campaign stating that they wanted to save the earth, one gallon of gasoline at a time. However, in the act of saving the earth, Honda (a Japanese automaker) stepped on a few toes, mainly those of Save the Earth Enterprises, an environmental group based in the United States. Save the Earth Enterprises sued Honda for all profits they received from the recent ad campaign and to stop future use by Honda of the Save the Earth trademark.

Whether a company is trying to secure their own rights to a pro-environment trademark, or simply advertise their environmentally friendly products, the overwhelming number of green trademarks and copyrights, are definitely making things more difficult.

How to Obtain a Green Trademark

This is an excellent example of the difficulties faced as companies try to distinguish themselves in an increasingly competitive 'green' marketplace. As the first wave of 'green' buzzwords and phrases becomes tired and overused, advertisers must get more creative, more specific, and hopefully more substantive in their attempts to set themselves apart.

I do not think I have seen this commercial and it surprises me that Honda would use a trademark, based in the US, and pass it off as their own. Honda should have done better research on this trademark. Thanks for sharing this.

Thanks for the information about trademarks, and the resources for this case. I think it's really important that we keep watching for cases like this to keep ourselves aware of how we use images and wording. Both so we don't infringe on other trademarks and so we make trademarks that are truly unique.

I think it's becoming more and more clear that the marketing of "green-ness", using the word or the color, is running out of all uniqueness and energy. There are appropriate uses for it, but overuse through competition really waters it down. Why can't companies, marketers, and designers embrace a wide vocabulary that reflects what is environmentally friendly on a case-by-case basis? If consumers are trained to match green with good choices, then all the energy goes into appearance rather than what a product or service actually delivers. A society that wants to be environmentally savvy also needs sophisticated communication to go with it.

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This page contains a single entry by picke070 published on April 30, 2010 5:05 PM.

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