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ITQ Online Outrage Tracker: You got trademark law in my climate change debate!


 

UPDATED -Added comment from Jennifer Wright – thanks to BigCityLib for the tip.

If you haven’t been following this story, this post is chock full o’ background info – and be sure to skim the comment thread too, including this exchange, in which I bring up the niggling question that eventually inspired me to put together this timeline.  Reposted here, too, for the click-averse:

  • comment by Deb Prothero on Tuesday, June 24, 2008 at 3:52 am:The company was fine with it and the Liberal’s website included a disclaimer at the bottom of the page indicating the difference right from the beginning. Green Shift was fine with the situation until they were bombarded by phone calls today from SDA and her cohorts in the blogosphere. They’ve each reported on their individual phone calls and each raised the temperature of the situation.I suspect if Green Shift’s Jennifer Wright could just take a deep breath and ignore the bloggers bugging her on the phone, she’d see the benefit of having traffic driven to her website.
  • comment by Kady O’Malley on Tuesday, June 24, 2008 at 5:56 am:Deb — do you have proof of that? I’m not asking in a snarky way — I had exactly the same thought last night, while trying (unsuccessfully) to get to sleep: WHY would random people start flooding a company with phone calls just because of a name collision?I mean, were these existing customers that were suddenly unsure whether they had been inadvertently dealing with a political entity? Or were these ostensibly ordinary people, with no previous awareness of Green Shift Inc., who were suddenly so filled with confusion that, rather than simply read the website — which is where they would have landed, presumably, while searching for information on the Liberal Green Shift — they would go to the trouble to make an irate phone call? It just doesn’t make any sense — unless, that is, there was a covert campaign to besiege the company with calls in order to freak out the owner, and escalate the situation to the next level.I’m going to see what I can dig up, but if you have any examples of posts – or comments, or anything else – exhorting people to call up Green Shift and rant about a supposed connection to the Liberals, please post them here, or send them along.

I’ll update this timeline with any new information that comes in on posts/comments/threads that predate the original post on Crux-of-the-Matter/Jack’s News Watch. Please feel free to send in any additional material, or post it in the comments.

Note: All times approximate except where noted; in the absence of accurate timestamps for original (ie unedited posts), the timestamp on the first comment has been used instead.

June 19

10:30 a.m.

Liberal Leader Stephane Dion launches the Green Shift, including a new, dedicated website at http://www.thegreenshift.ca

11:19 am (note: possibly CST, not EST)

In a thread on the Liberal Green Shift on the eBrandon.ca message board, bcglorf posts the following:

Is there a website for the liberals proposal? greenshift.ca is a private company site and I couldn’t find anything about the new liberal proposal on it.

June 20

In a column entited “Carbon tax means pain, but also gain”, Globe and Mail Report on Business columnist Madelaine Drohan mentions Green Shift, Inc. – an “environmental consulting business” which, she suggests, could “benefit” from the Liberal plan due to increased traffic to their similarly-URLed website:

In the meantime, one Toronto environmental consulting business is probably already benefiting from the Liberal plan. Traffic on the website of Green Shift, located at www.greenshift.ca , has undoubtedly risen as a result of people looking for more details on Mr. Dion’s plan called The Green Shift, at www.thegreenshift.ca

Of the 44 comments on the post, not one mentions the possibility of confusion between the two domain names, although many are highly critical of the Liberal plan for other reasons.

June 23

10:55 am

Crux of the Matter blogger “Sandy” is the first blogger to raise the issue of a possible trademark infringement, in a crosspost to both her own blog, and Jack’s Newswatch. According to the timestamp on the first comment at JNW, that post appears before  She credits the find to a “regular reader”, and includes a H/T to “Bert” on the crosspost.

11:37 am

in the comment thread at JNW, “Babylonian” claims to have “just” gotten off the phone with a “very professional … lady” :

I mentioned to her what I have been hearing, and asked her simply right away if they were affiliated with the Liberal party, she almost “knee-jerk” shot back by saying “NO”. She mentioned that they are dealing with them on the issue. Seems like a no issue to me, Liberals should “cease and dismantle” before this thing grows. I made it clear that I was an engineer who was interested in possobily doing business with them, which I am, but wanted to make sure they have no political affiliation. I honestly don’t care what party someone belongs to, but when your company starts supporting getting involved in some policitical plan, I don’t have the stomach for that………………THIS IS NOT THE CASE WITH THEM AT ALL. To be honest, she seemed annoyed with whole situation[.]

The comment also includes the phone number for Green Shift Inc.

2:08pm

Splatto of A Step to the Right links to the original post on Crux-of-the-matter, at approximately .  He also claims to have called the company himself, independently, to inquire as to whether there was any relationship between the Liberal Party and a “private company.”

According to his post, the company already seems to be aware of the issue, and suggests that they have “lost both new business and existing clients since Thursday who have been frightened off at the perception of a relationship between them and the federal Liberal Party.”

It’s unclear whether his call was made before or after that from Babylonian, whose account of the conversation would suggest that he or she gave the company the impression that the potential link with the Liberals would cost at least one prospective client.

Splatto’s post also includes Green Shift Inc.’s contact information, including phone number, and encourages readers to call in to show “support” for the company.

2:47pm

Small Dead Animals picks up Splatto’s post.

3:12pm

Splatto’s post takes the top spot on National Newswatch.

Note: The timeline stops here, because in my experience, once a story — or a blog post – is given a prominent spot on NNW, it’s just a matter of time before the rest of the media outlets follow/match it. At that point, it belongs to the world.

ADDENDUM: Well, except for this, which seems relevant to the discussion:

June 24

2:57 am

Green Shift, Inc. proprietor Jennifer Wright posts a comment to Crux-of-the-Matter. In it, she defends the company’s decision to  selectively take action against the Liberal Party for use of the phrase “green shift” while ignoring the “odd” use of the phrase in other contexts (including at least one that predates her claim to continual use):

Having Canadas Liberal Party use the term for what essentially amounts to an environmental program, as opposed to our environmental program, and dealing with thousands on misdirected garbage emails … including a bunch from people thinking that we should like it – ugghhh!!

Interestingly, she also posts an example of a “garbage email” that, as noted in the comments by BCL, appears to have been sent by an conservative American blogger of undefinable and possibly non-existent political persuasion (and, as such, not likely  to be a defender of the Liberal Party, or its Green Shift) that was apparently sent after the story hit the news (and cannot, as such, be definitively linked to name confusion).

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ITQ Online Outrage Tracker: You got trademark law in my climate change debate!

  1. At 2:57 am Jennifer Wright writes:

    We did everything we can for the time to fight the infringement from the US company. They bought out GreenShift.com from a non competitive website, and right at the same time registered the name in the US. We spent a lot of money – almost bancrupting ourselves in legal fees. We do own the US trademark on the name Green Shift and have done for a good few years. Main thing that made us decide to leave it for the time being was that we really are most concerned with Canada, we are protected in the US in the sense that no one can stop us, one day we might go back to it but altogether…. gotta pick your battles. For those asking about the other odd other use of the term Green Shift and asking why we don’t sue them. We believe life is too short to waste time, and if it is harmless, we would leave it. Having Canadas Liberal Party use the term for what essentially amounts to an environmental program, as opposed to our environmental program, and dealing with thousands on misdirected garbage emails … including a bunch from people thinking that we should like it – ugghhh!! Well, we sincerely appreciate all of you who have put forward your supportive words. Here is one example of a pleasant email we received this evening – and my response:

    http://crux-of-the-matter.com/2008/06/23/dion-breaking-copyright-green-shift-a-trademark/#comment-2583

    Interesting in that the “garbage email” looks to be from a U.S. Conservative blogger (Dr. Zaius).

  2. So… are you going to pick up the phone and do some queries on our behalf, Kady? The blackberry will allow voice calls too, ya know… :)

  3. Yeah, I’ve actually not stopped writing since I woke up at 5am, and sort of lost track of the fact that normal people are, in fact, answering their calls right now. I’m going to email Ms. Wright to see if she can give me some idea of whether the volume of calls increased over the last 24 hours.

  4. Whooee! I posted up some free Green advice for Liberals on my blog. http://www.jimbobby.com

    I suggest the LPC purchase all its summer BBQ supplies from GreenShift.ca. They sell the very products the LPC needs when it’s out there promoting its plan this summer: non-toxic, biodegradable, cups, plates, bowls and cutlery.

    I suspect a purchase like that would be the biggest sale the comapany ever made and it will spin off and generate more sales.

    I am involved with my local community hall. I will be advocating that we get quotes on eco-friendly products from this company, now that I am aware of its existence. We’d looked into it before and were unable to find a Canadian source for cornstarch-based cups, plates and utensils. We’ll also be looking at their cleaning products.

    JB

  5. That’s actually a pretty freaking brilliant idea, JB. Let’s hope someone is reading your blog and passes it along.

  6. Ha! I’m full of freakin’ brilliant ideas. Whenever I get one, a corkscrew-shaped compact fluorescent light bulb appears over my head.
    JB

  7. Interesting thread Kady. I understand what you mean when you say you haven’t stopped writing. Since breaking this story yesterday at Crux-of-the-Matter and Jack’s Newswatch, I have been glued to my computer chair, stopping only for snacks and a couple of hours sleep.

    I really like JimBobby’s ideas. If I can manage to take a break I may even write a post about his suggestions and link to his site.

    One thing about this whole story shows the effect the blogosphere is having on the mainstream media. Moreover, like never before, I am reading about bloggers I didn’t know were out there.

    As JimBobby suggests, when faced with lemons, make lemonade.

  8. I think this illustrates perfectly the arrogance of the Liberals. I love Mr Dunn calling up Ms Wright to inform her that Liberals would be stealing her trademark name, as a ‘courtesy’, and that she should be grateful because it might help her web traffic.

    I think what happened is that Liberals printed up all kinds of promo stuff and then decided to check on copyrights, trademarks and the like. They realized too late that they were stealing ideas and tried to cover their behinds with a phone call.

  9. If I was a Blogging Tory I would love this as it attempts to obscure the real issues:

    1- where is the Conservative plan?
    2- where is the Conservative response to the Liberal plan, or the NDP plan, or the Green Party’s plan for that matter, and I don’t mean a juvenile website or a cartoon oil spot.
    3- what is the Prime Minister’s response to the debate challenge issued by Dion?

  10. Yes jwl, the Liberal Party, which is probably half lawyers, are just too arrogant to check on such things as copyrights, trademarks and the like.

    And what exactly are you accusing the Liberal Party of stealing?

  11. comment by John W on Tuesday, June 24, 2008 at 1:43 pm:This means nothing.

    Thanks for the enlightenment, John.

  12. Kady
    If you go to the government trademark site for Green Shift it has not been registered as a trademark but applied for.

    From what it sounds like Blogging Tory posted her phone number so that concerned Conservatives could voice their outrage.

    I think it’s dirty tricks from well, the Conservative Party.

    I never had a problem telling the difference from the similar site names.

  13. Dlje I am pretty clear about what I think the Liberals stole. I didn’t write that Liberals didn’t check copyright, trademarks – they just checked after promo stuff was printed and there is no going back because the party is broke and can’t afford to ditch their campaign now.

    I think they are arrogant because they expect Ms Wright to be happy that her company is now associated with a massive tax grab that will do nothing to fix the environment. I know a few die hard environmentalists and they think Liberal plan is appalling because it’s all smoke and mirrors that won’t solve anything. Maybe Ms Wright feels the same way.

    I also think you are too much in thrall to the Liberals and lawyers. The Liberal party was 1/2 made up of lawyers 10 years ago but that didn’t stop them from laundering tens of millions of dollars in Quebec.

  14. I’m assuming that LPC barbeques in 2008 will be conducted with solar grills? All that propane burned and all that?

    Better still for the planet would be raw and vegan but one step at a time :)

  15. Yeah, Kady, I’ve been trying to get hold of Dr. Zaius and get some feedback from him. No luck yet. Having taken a closer look at his website (assuming its the same guy that emailed Greenshift), I’d probably refer to his politics as Simian Supremacist.

  16. jwl – love all the partisan references in your post, but you still forgot to answer what it is the Liberals stole.

    What exactly are you accusing the Liberal Party of stealing?

  17. Dije,
    A trademark is intellectual property. Even if registration is not complete, common law usage says that it belongs to GSI.

    Try doing some research instead of just making up adolescent insults.

  18. jad – From the National Post today;

    “But in order to succeed in making a case for infringement, Ms. Wright will have to demonstrate that the Liberals’ use of the term “Green Shift” leads people to mistake or misunderstand the relationship between the organization, Green Shift Inc., and the Liberals’ Green Shift platform.

    “In the marketplace now, we have Apple computers, Apple Auto Glass, Apple Records and all those sorts of things, and generally they can coexist in the marketplace without confusion,” Mr. Wowk said. “The basis of trademark law is confusion, so [the central issue will be] whether or not there’s confusion in the marketplace.”

    To me it sounds like it will be open to debate and not a black and white situation. I’m not a lawyer, so I will cheat off the homeowrk that the National Post and others have done (and give them credit of course, copyrights and all).

    How many people will confuse the Liberl party policy plan with a food services product provider? That will be a question for the lawyers.

    So jad, now a simple question to you;

    What did I say that were “[made] up adolescent insults?

  19. Jad – From today’s National Post

    From George A. Wowk, an intellectual and copyright lawyer;

    “But in order to succeed in making a case for infringement, Ms. Wright will have to demonstrate that the Liberals’ use of the term “Green Shift” leads people to mistake or misunderstand the relationship between the organization, Green Shift Inc., and the Liberals’ Green Shift platform.

    “In the marketplace now, we have Apple computers, Apple Auto Glass, Apple Records and all those sorts of things, and generally they can coexist in the marketplace without confusion,” Mr. Wowk said. “The basis of trademark law is confusion, so [the central issue will be] whether or not there’s confusion in the marketplace.”

    I’m not a lawyer or a reporter so I will look for information from lawyers collected by reporters then attribute the source (http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=608618) to avoid any copyright issues.

    The quote from Mr. Wowk would have me believe that this will be a debate that isn’t black and white.

    And a quick question for you;

    What did I say that were “[made] up adolescent insults”?

  20. Since it hasn’t been mentioned yet, here’s Garth Turner’s post about Green Shift:

    “…So, to recap: The Liberal Green Shift domain name, http://www.thegreenshift.ca, was available and was registered. The for-profit Green Shift company was notified in advance. It got a ton of hits. It has received non-stop national publicity. Millions of people who never knew it existed, do now. …”

    http://www.garth.ca/weblog/

  21. “In the marketplace now, we have Apple computers, Apple Auto Glass, Apple Records and all those sorts of things, and generally they can coexist in the marketplace without confusion,”

    Except Apple Records and Apple Computer have litigated various issues over the years… plainly Apple Records thinks otherwise. Mr Wowk should be introduced to Google.

  22. I realize she’s swamped but would it kill her to put a hyperlink to the ‘the’?

  23. The frenzy that the Harper Conservatives are showing over the difference between GreenShiftInc the company selling environmental PRODUCTS and SERVICES, and thegreenshift of the Liberal Party putting forth an IDEA is telling.

    I hope you get them Kady! If they’ve been badgering this company of products and services in a concerted effort to discredit it in an effort to squelch the Liberal Party idea… perhaps Green Shift Inc. will have grounds to sue the bloggers who went after this company for their own purposes.

  24. You mentioned Jack’s Newswatch. I am confused. I thought some guy named Bourque owned Newswatch. Surely there’s a lawsuit and front page national story to be had there, too?

  25. Well the tempest in the blog-pot seems to have blown over.

    Hey, old Brian M. ruined the term “revenue neutral” for all time and who wants to sell a policy called tax, war or whatever.

    So, can we get back to debating policy rather than displaying ignorance of trademark law? (or shouting “crazy, screw etc”)

  26. Does this woman not realize that she’s being USED by Tory bloggers/trolls, etc. just to try to get back at Liberals? She can’t be that dumb.

    She also made a choice not to pursue the TM at this time – didn’t she leave the door open?

    Letting herself be “used” by the Tory supporters is letting herself be affiliated with a political party it would seem to me.

  27. “…She can’t be that dumb.”

    cut her some slack and give her some time to sort it out. no doubt in my mind she’s that annoyed.

    consider the mental capacity of people who managed to drag up her phone number without realizing its not the Liberals.

  28. Or, more likely, realizing it ISN’T the Liberals and calling just to be a pain.

  29. “Or, more likely, realizing it ISN’T the Liberals and calling just to be a pain.”

    you gotta figure that’s one penny that’ll drop sooner or later.

  30. Contact Us: 416-925-9665 / info@GreenShift.ca

    Seems rather odd to me that GreenShift would have only a Toronto phone number and a commercial referral list of 299 entities, including water services in a couple municipalities. Am I the only one who smells an exaggeration of the ‘implied harm’ done here?

  31. Kady – great minds yadda yadda yadda…
    I came to the same conclusion and wrote about it on Susan Delacourt’s blog before she pimped your research…
    The Greenshift lady is the net beneficiary of all this…I used to have a website for my business where the domain name was the same – coincidentally – as that for a much larger company in Europe in the same business…only difference – I had registered the .CA and .ORG suffixes…
    no lawyer of theirs bugged me to cease and desist – nor – sadly – did they make me any stupendous offer to buy out my domain names…

  32. Hi Kady;

    Sorry got busy for hours after I posted and didn’t see your response. You did gather up the posts that I had read about the phone calls and emails being directed from SDA and others in the Blogging Tories. I don’t usually go to those blogs but I noticed Crux of the Matter first and followed the threads, as you have done. I counted 21 different comments on several blogs (that’s why I posted at that hour of the day) indicating phone calls made on Monday to Green Shift. All of them seemed to escalate the situation.

    I could try to look for those 21 phone call comments but don’t actually have the time. Would you like me to post a scan of my little groups of five slash marks on my scratch-pad beside my computer? :-)

    Essentially my comment on your blog arose from my little adventure of seeing a comment that is off-colour or raises suspicion. I followed it for a couple of hours, then posted my impression to your blog.

    Next time, in the interest of journalistic integrity, I shall keep a list of my adventures – just in case, Kady calls again! :-)

  33. Regarding: comment by Deb Prothero on Tuesday, June 24, 2008 at 3:52 am: this persons statement about us is absolutely 100% false. ie. “…fine with it until…” Never, Ever were we fine with it and we made that clear the moment that we were informed. That being said, 6:30 the night before hardly constitutes warning!!!!! who is patrolling this site – the enquirer???

  34. there IS something amusing reading about woes of getting dragged down by political baggage on a page draped with official NDP colours.

    btw, “the” is getting WAY more traffic than null, so I think most folks sorted it out pretty quickly.

  35. Hey Jennifer : (you said) who is patrolling this site – the enquirer??? = now that is funny – way to go lady keep up the good fight. You might find a fair amount of bitter left wing nuts on this forum this is to be expected as they are in constant frustration because we have a Conservative gov’t in power and the leader of the Liberals has basically been AWOL for 2 years until of late and the only leader of the opposition is from the third party in seats – I can’t wait for the next confidence motion when the house opens as Dion’s hail mary will have arrived – can anyone possibly imagine him trying to whip the party into abstaining then …..

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