Use of Australian company logo for parody brings Greenpeace to court

Greenpeace’s recent campaign against Australia’s largest power producer, AGL Energy, led the energy company to sue Greenpeace on Wednesday. The case arises out of ALG’s claim that Greenpeace’s use of the AGL logo in a parody violates copyright and trademark laws.

A recent Greenpeace online campaign described AGL as Australia’s “biggest climate polluter” with the slogan “AGL – Australia’s Greatest Liability,” the Associated Press reported. Greenpeace Australia Pacific has accused AGL of “greenwashing” by presenting itself as a leading investor in renewable energy. AGL mainly produces electricity from coal.

Under Australian trademark laws, logos can be used for satire, parody and criticism, which Greenpeace says allowed it to use the AGL logo for the campaign.

AGL argued in return that Greenpeace was damaging the reputation and public image of the company.

“AGL is not trying to stifle public debate. What it is trying to do is protect itself, protect its intellectual property rights,” said AGL lawyer Megan Evetts.

For more Associated Press reporting, see below.

Protesters display placards at a rally outside AGL Energy’s annual general meeting to protest the use of fossil fuels by Australian power companies in Sydney on September 28, 2016. AGL Energy argued in front of the court that Greenpeace was damaging the company’s reputation by using its logo.
Peter Parks / AFP via Getty Images

Greenpeace lawyer Katrina Bullock said the lawsuit was an example of a “fossil fuel” company using the law to try “to intimidate its critics.”

AGL unsuccessfully sought an interim court order in early May that would have forced Greenpeace to stop using the logo.

Evetts told the court there was “clear intent to damage the brand” through the Greenpeace campaign. The court must decide whether Greenpeace owes AGL damages, she said.

Greenpeace attorney Neil Murray told the court the campaign did not break the law because it did not use the AGL trademark in a commercial context and its motives were “pure”.

“Running the campaign to get people to criticize AGL for continuing to mine coal until 2048 in the hope that this criticism will put pressure on AGL to change is a legitimate aim: to start a debate public for a beneficial cause, ”Murray said. . “To punish a charity for doing this would be unfair.”

AGL acknowledged in its last annual report that it is Australia’s largest greenhouse gas emitter and intends to continue generating electricity by burning coal until 2048, Murray said. .

“This is not a game invented by Greenpeace. It is a serious problem, the dynamic of which is recognized by AGL in its own documents,” Murray said.

The campaign aimed to end Australia’s dependence on coal-fired electricity by 2030, as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“This is not… a free bashing exercise from AGL, it is not about trying to inflict maximum harm on them,” Murray said. “This is a socially responsible campaign addressed to a very specific issue based on international research.”

AGL’s attorney, John Hennessy, said the campaign involved “bulk reproduction of the logo” and could not be considered satirical.

Greenpeace activist Glenn Walker described the modified AGL logo used in his campaign as a parody.

Asked by Hennessy, Walker denied that the purpose of the campaign was to persuade AGL to change its policy through a loss of customers.

Walker said Greenpeace advised AGL customers to write posts on social media pages, send emails to AGL’s chief executive and phone the AGL customer service center to do so. share their concerns about the company’s climate policy.

“We have been very clear in our communication with all of AGL’s clients that we would actually prefer them to engage with the company because we think it has a bigger impact in this campaign,” Walker said. .

Walker did not accept Hennessy’s proposition that Greenpeace viewed AGL as a “bad guy.”

“We see them as a temporary villain,” Walker said. “Because a lot of the companies that we are targeting in our campaign end up being very good business players and we commend them for that. “

“Ultimately, the goal of the campaign is to get them to shut down their coal-fired power plants and become a leader in renewable energy,” he added.

Australia’s Clean Energy Regulator confirms that AGL is the country’s largest greenhouse gas polluter, accounting for 8% of the country’s total emissions.

Judge Stephen Burley said at the end of the day-long hearing that he would deliver his verdict at a later date.

Australia Greenpeace
Greenpeace supporters protest outside the Federal Court in Sydney on Wednesday, June 2, 2021. Australia’s largest power producer, AGL Energy, is suing Greenpeace for violation of copyright and trademark laws. trade as part of the environmental charity’s campaign that describes AGL as the “biggest climate polluter in the country.”
Rick Rycroft / AP Photo

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