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AGL vs Greenpeace Australia Pacific Limited: Trademark infringement case

AGL Energy Limited vs Greenpeace
| Updated: Jan 07, 2022 | Category: Trademark

In this blog, we will discuss the case of AGL Energy Limited vs Greenpeace Australia Pacific Limited to get insights into trademark and copyright infringement. In this case, AGL prosecuted Greenpeace for the infringement of its copyright and Trademark about posters made by Greenpeace with AGL’s logo. The AGL has used much visual media on distinct platforms using the AGL’s Logo with the Tagline “Australia’s Greatest Liability”.

Intellectual property rights are considered important assets of any organization; in the present matter, AGL Energy Limited vs Greenpeace Australia Pacific Limited is the best example of trademark and copyright infringement. Scroll down to check the critical analysis of AGL Energy Limited vs Greenpeace Australia Pacific Limited. 

Facts of the case

To give you some context, Greenpeace initiated an advertising campaign targeting AGL, following the release of a report commissioned by Greenpeace raising concerns about AGL’s continuous operation in coal-burning power stations concerning its commitment to renewable energy targets. With altered taglines like “Generating Pollution for Generations” and “Still Australia’s Biggest Climate Polluter,” these ads replicated the graphics of AGL’s ads. The adverts mocked the AGL logo by referring to it as “Australia’s Greatest Liability.” The advertising mocked the AGL logo by referring to the company like AGL. “Australia’s Greatest Liability” is a phrase. AGL filed a lawsuit against Greenpeace in Court just two days after beginning the ad campaign. Rather than hearing AGL’s interlocutory injunction application, the Court proceeded with the ultimate hearing of AGL’s claim in less than a month. 

Argument by the Parties 

Argument by Greenpeace- Greenpeace has claimed that they did not use AGL’s logo as a trademark, their usage of it could not be considered an infringement. In other words, they did not intend for their use of AGL’s logo to be recognized as a source of identification for AGL’s goods and services. Furthermore, because it was used for “parody or satire” or “criticism or review,” the modified logo fell under the exception of “fair dealing” and is a copyrighted work. 

AGL’s argument has indicated that it did not wish to intervene in Greenpeace’s information for dissemination or the public debate surrounding the issue. However, it is attempting to prevent its changed logo from being used in Greenpeace campaign materials. Because the original logo is a registered trademark and an artistic work under copyright law, AGL claims that such use is trademark and copyright infringement. Furthermore, it stated that its registration, among other things, covers educational activities related to the environment; so, Greenpeace is unable to use the environmental mark.

Examination and Judgement of the Court

Since the Australian Federal Court[1] took the side of Greenpeace, which ruled that a trademark can only be violated if it is used concerning the goods and services protected by the trademark registration. As a result, Greenpeace did not utilize AGL’s logo in connection with the goods and services it claimed were protected by AGL’s trademark registration. Under both trademark and copyright law, using a company logo for environmental activism or to protest against climate change is reasonably acceptable if the use is for the actual purpose of criticism, parody, or satire. The Court also noted that using corporate trademarks for criticism or review does not automatically come within the fair dealing exception.

The Court noted the followings:

  1. The contested works must be objectively assessed from the standpoint of an average person and how they would interpret such contested works if they were exposed to them. Subjective factors, including alleged infringer belief that the said works fall in the category of satire or parody, are not relevant.
  2. Even if the impugned works have many goals, such as engaging in satire or parody while entertaining, bringing about change, or doing news reporting, exceptions like satire or parody are still applied.

The Court concludes that there is no copyright infringement as follows:

  1. Sarcasm and scorn are all natural parts of parody and satire, and just because such work causes harm to the copyright owner does not mean it is “unfair.” Even though Greenpeace internal documents indicated the organization’s intention to label the AGL brand “toxic,” the Court dismissed it as “colourful language, perhaps rhetorical hype of the type commonly used in advertising and also environmental campaigning that would aid Greenpeace in criticizing AGL’s conduct and provoking debate.”
  2. The nature of the corporate logo work; Greenpeace uses the whole logo (work) without transforming it, which does not make work “unfair.”
  3. Even though AGL’s logo has a strong reputation, copyright only protects the expression of the logo, not the brand’s reputation. The damage done to AGL was caused by the content of the commercial campaign, not by the usage of its logo.
  4. According to each advertisement, Greenpeace is the originator of such a campaign, and no logical, sensible person would view it otherwise.
  5. As per the court view, Greenpeace is a non-profit organization and not considered the competitor of AGL. 

Therefore, in this matter of AGL Energy Limited vs Greenpeace Australia Pacific Limited court dismissed the claim for Trademark infringement

Conclusion 

After reviewing the matter, we conclude that AGL Energy Limited vs Greenpeace Australia Pacific Limited. Using a company’s logo for information purposes directly generates income while also generating goodwill and brand value for the company. Unless it comes squarely within the scope of the exceptions, which is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, such use without authorization is copyright infringement. As stated in AGL vs Greenpeace, not all materials fell except fair dealing because the intended usage did not reflect that. Copyright will always be a useful weapon for protecting and restoring brand value and reputation regardless of what else is said. Assume that any advertising is fraudulent or provides inaccurate and misleading information. Still, the Brand owners can sue for trademark or copyright infringement.

Read our Article:Everything You Need to Know About Fluid Trademarks

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Siddharth has completed his graduation in law (BA. LLB) from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University. He has a keen interest in doing extensive research and writing on legal subjects, especially on Civil, criminal and corporate Law. He is a creative thinker and has a great interest in exploring legal subjects.

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