“Green” Trademarks: Promoting Environmentalism or Creating Confusion?

All of us must be familiar with the term trademarks but recently the term green trademark is much in vogue. Now in an era where climate change is at its peak and everything is going sustainable- seems to be a positive step but how impactful is still a question- one must be wondering what is even a green trademark or what different they offer or is it just a fancy term to lure customers and suck them in the whirlpool of consumerism?

“Green” trademarks are trademarks that are used to signal a company’s commitment to environmentally-friendly practices. These trademarks can help consumers make informed choices about the products they purchase and support businesses that are taking steps to reduce their environmental impact. The use of “green” trademarks is part of a broader trend towards environmentalism, in which individuals and companies are increasingly seeking out products and services that are sustainable and eco-friendly. By using trademarks to promote their commitment to the environment, businesses can differentiate themselves from competitors and build trust and loyalty with consumers who value sustainability.

Because of their intrinsic nature as source identifiers, trademarks may deliver the best in sustainable products by instantly indicating that the products carrying the marks, or services offered under the marks, are “green.”

There has been an increase in trademark applications combining the terms ECO, BIO, E, RE, and the like, as well as imagery of leaves or the Earth or the color green, to indicate that the goods/services offered are eco-friendly. Green trademarks include brands like BEYOND MEAT for plant-based meat products and GREEN TOYS made from recycled plastic milk jugs, Indian sneaker brand THAILI making shoes purely out of plastic waste DINEARTH for alternative source tableware and crockery products, MAMAEARTH for toxin-free natural beauty care products, and BIOTIQUE for skin and hair care developed from ayurveda with 100% botanicals.

Patagonia, for example, uses ecological materials and encourages users to reduce consumption by repairing or acquiring second-hand products. Patagonia has used trademarks such as WORN WEAR, BETTER THAN NEW, and WE’RE IN BUSINESS TO SAVE OUR HOME PLANET to express its environmental goals and influence consumer behavior.

The USPTO is “already authorized to regulate ‘green’ trademarks under Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, which addresses false and deceptive marks” along with that The European Union Intellectual Property Office (the “EUIPO”) has as well recognized the presence of sustainable marks.

While all of this seems to look very nice and makes one hopeful for a better world one must also be aware that along with green trademarks there exists greenwashing. Greenwashing is the use of unsubstantiated claims about the environmental friendliness of products, services, or practices.

 For example, Nestle stated in 2018 that it had “ambitions” for its packaging to be 100% recyclable or reusable by 2025. Environmental groups and other critics, however, pointed out that the corporation has not disclosed precise targets, a schedule to support its ambitions, or further steps to help people recycle. Similarly, in 2019, H&M debuted its own “green” clothing line called “Conscious.” According to the company, it uses “organic” cotton and recycled polyester. However, the line is nothing more than a marketing ploy to appear more environmentally conscious.d, false, or misleading claims about the environmental friendliness of products, services, or practices. One can find many such practices out there.

Another problem is that “green” trademarks lack a clear definition of what constitutes a green product or practice. This can lead to confusion among consumers and potential abuse of the system by companies seeking to capitalize on the popularity of environmentalism without actually taking steps to reduce their environmental impact. For example, the term “green” is often used very broadly and can mean different things to different people. Some people may consider a product to be green if it is made from recycled materials, while others may consider a product to be green if it is biodegradable or produces minimal waste. Without a clear definition of what constitutes a green product, it can be difficult for consumers to know what they are buying and for businesses to know what standards they need to meet to use green trademarks.

It is ultimately up to companies and regulatory bodies to determine the best approach to the use of “green” trademarks. However, some possible recommendations for companies considering using a “green” trademark could include:

  • Clearly defining and communicating the environmental benefits associated with their products or services
  • Ensuring that their claims of environmentalism are accurate and can be substantiated
  • Working with regulatory bodies to establish clear guidelines for the use of “green” trademarks

Green trademarks are critical in bringing together the ideals of technology and environmental sustainability under a single branding canopy. As a result, they have become a key marketing tool, generating interest in products and services while also giving the eco-friendly business an advantage over competitors. Because sustainability is the key here, it enables brands to fulfill their corporate social duties as well. Simultaneously, one must be mindful of the aforementioned fraudulent techniques. In some or many ways, the world is witnessing the true adoption of green trademarks, but the aforementioned greenwashing tactics continue to exist, leaving us to wonder whether they are truly trying to make a difference.





Baskaran & Associates is a well established law firm managed by Adv. H.B. Keshava. We specialize in multiple areas of law such as Intellectual Property Rights, Technology Laws, Labor Laws, Business Laws, ADR, Criminal Laws and Cybersecurity Laws. We are based out of Pune and Chennai, but have been handling clients from all across the country. We have a team of the best individuals comprising of Advocates, Patent Agents, Charted Accountants and Company Secretaries. We aim to serve, provide and help businesses grow.

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