'Green Shift' firm steps up legal action against Grits
Published Thursday, September 4, 2008 7:46PM EDT
A Toronto-based environmental consulting firm has asked the courts to keep the Liberal Party of Canada and its candidates from using the name Green Shift for its policy platform.
Jennifer Wright, owner of Green Shift Inc., first accused the Liberals of infringing on the trademarked name of her company in July, but speculation of an imminent federal election moved her to get the case in front a judge as soon as possible.
"Basically I'm hoping to stop them from destroying our name because if it goes through an election we're forced with re-branding our entire company," Wright told CTV.ca in a phone interview Thursday. "We're just fighting to do everything we can to keep our name intact and to keep it associated with the environmental company and the integrity that it upholds and not have it politicized."
She added: "They are taking more and more of the ownership of the name every day, even in the way the media reports on them it becomes almost synonymous with the Liberal party."
The name of the company had never been slandered in its 10-year history until being linked to the Liberal platform, Wright alleged, adding that parodies of the trademarked name, like "Green Shaft," are just one of the negative consequences of being placed in the crossfire of political mudslinging.
Wright is also accusing the Liberals of diluting what her company's name stands for and linking it to a political party, things she says are costing her business. Some people have even threatened to boycott the firm because of the implied link, she said.
Wright says the result of this case, if it goes to court, could be a landmark ruling on intellectual property with the possibility of creating a "chilling effect" on businesses operating in the country.
Wright had first sought the injunction in July, at the same time filing a lawsuit that sought $8.5 million in general and special damages and $250,000 in aggravated and punitive damages.
Liberal leader Stephane Dion said in July that since his party was not a commercial company he saw no problem with sharing the name of his carbon-tax plan and called the lawsuit "deplorable."
Liberal environment critic David McGuinty told CTV in July that anyone can search the Internet for the phrase "green shift" and see just how often it pops up in the environmental movement. He said he was personally using the phrase in the early 1990s.
"It's a bit mysterious -- in fact, puzzling -- why (the suit) is being launched now," he said.
Wright denies claims McGuinty made almost two months ago that the two parties could come to an amicable agreement. Wright says the Liberals were using stall tactics that forced her into legal action.
"I think that made people believe that probably behind the scenes things were happening when I think their strategy was really to just to keep on using it and ignore it and just steamroll over us."
The Liberals have linked their website -- thegreenshift.ca -- to Wright's company website. There is also a disclaimer that states the Liberal website "is not affiliated with Green Shift Incorporated."
The Liberals are aware of the application for the injunction as lawyers on both sides started proceedings and discussions two weeks ago.