Archive for Greenwashing

Sustainable Marks and GreenTech IP Summit Coming to Chicago 6/27-6/29



American Conference Institute ( has announced a new event, the Green Technology Intellectual Property Summit.  Being held in Chicago on June 27 – 29, this conference takes a unique approach to discussing the IP issues associated with emerging green technologies.  Sessions will cover not only the nuts and bolts of protecting green inventions, but will also engage attendees with panels on utilizing new approaches to patent valuation in the wake of the America Invents Act, building business strategies that help maximize the value of an IP portfolio, and crafting mutually beneficial licensing agreements.


In addition, attendees will learn best practices for producing effective and compliant marketing programs, and how to navigate the increasingly murky waters of creating high-quality marks that will receive protection from the USPTO.  Along with Scot Case of Terra Choice, I will be presenting a session of green trademarks and certification marks.


Finally, a keynote speech from a commercialization and investment expert will help attendees learn how to present their IP portfolios in the best light to potential investors and utilize strategies to maximize the profit potential of their products.  This event boasts a stellar faculty of in-house and private practice counsel, and includes representatives from:


The US Patent and Trademark Office * The US Department of Energy * The University of California, Berkeley

UL Environment * General Electric * Alstom Power * Foro Energy * Gevo, Inc. * Virent, Inc.


Sustainable Marks readers are entitled to a discount when referencing the code: SM 200.  Group rates are also available – a group of four will receive a 25% discount off the full rate.  You can learn more and register at  You can also register by calling 888-224-2480 or by fax at 877-927-1563.


Hope to see you there!


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Growing Your Eco-Brands in a Changing Climate

Please check out my latest article on green branding in the World Trademark Review.



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“When Green Means No” – Challenges Unique to Branding Cleantech Products

Please check out my new article on green branding, entitled “When Green Means No”, which was just published in the latest issue of Intellectual Property Magazine. The article deals with green brand conception, protection, and registration, green certification marks, greenwashing, and other opportunities and challenges in marketing green products.



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S.C. Johnson Settles Greenlist Greenwashing Suits

S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. has announced that it has settled two Federal class action lawsuits brought against it, one in California and one in Wisconsin, related to the use of its GREENLIST mark (shown below) on bottles of its Windex®-brand cleaning products.


The suits alleged that the presence of the mark misled consumers into believing that the products had been certified as environmentally-friendly by an objective third-party, when in fact the GREENLIST mark is not a certification mark at all but rather S.C. Johnson’s own trademark for use on its own products. Take a look below at the logo and how it appeared on the product. Would you have thought you were looking at a certification?


For its part, S.C. Johnson maintains that the mark simply signifies that the product has achieved a green rating in a self-imposed and self-operated rating system, and that it is entitled to use the mark in that manner.  It also maintains that the product ingredients are in fact not harmful to the environment. However, the company settled the suit, acknowledging that it “could have been more transparent about what the logo signified.”  The exact terms of the settlement are confidential, but S.C. Johnson will discontinue use of the GREENLIST logo on Windex bottles and will pay an undisclosed sum of money.


The lesson here for green advertisers is that they should take care that their own marks cannot reasonably be mistaken for third-party certifications. This can be accomplished both by avoiding logos that appear like seals, and through highly-visible disclosure of the nature of any “internal” rating system vs. a true certification.


On a side note, S.C. Johnson has just started a trial program for refillable Windex, which, if successful, will cut down significantly on product packaging. However, it remains to be seen in consumers will be willing to make the switch.

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Greenwashing Sins, Part II: Sin of No Proof

In the second installment of our ongoing series on greenwashing sins, we discuss the second sin, or the “Sin of No Proof.”  This one is fairly self-explanatory. According to terrachoice, this sin entails “[a]n environmental claim that cannot be substantiated by easily accessible supporting information or by a reliable third-party certification. Common examples are facial tissues or toilet tissue products that claim various percentages of post-consumer recycled content without providing evidence.”


Unlike Sin #1, the Hidde Trade-Off (which has gone from a near 100% frequency in 2007 down to under 30% in the most-recent 2010 survey), occurrences of this sin are unfortunately at their all-time high.  Estimates are that more than 70% of all green advertising claims commit this sin, and as of the 2010 survey, it has become the most commonly-committed sin.  Consumers must be more careful than ever to only trust green advertising claims that come from a trusted source that is willing to back up its claims with hard evidence.  Green marketers should intensify their efforts to verify that they do not make claims that go beyond what they can support with data.





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