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Monday, July 04, 2011

Have You Ever Been Greenwashed? | CEO SPACE

There is a good chance you have never even heard of greenwashing. Yet, your company may be at risk by engaging in the practice of greenwashing. Wikipedia defines greenwashing as the practice of companies disingenuously spinning their products and policies as environmentally friendly. In today's world, "green" is good marketing, but saying your product is green when it isn't can have significant consequences.

Before touting your product's environmentally friendly qualities, review your claims carefully to ensure that you can back them up with data. Keep in mind that if you overstep your bounds, there are several potential consequences, including:

  • Consumer watch dogs host websites that expose any inconsistencies in marketing claims
  • The Federal Trade Commission will prosecute false or misleading advertising claims
  • The United States Patent & Trademark Office will deny a trademark application for being "misdescriptive"
  • The National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau has a "challenge" process
Over the last year, the lawyers at Jaburg & Wilk have searched, registered, and defended numerous trademarks that include the word "green." Whenever one of our clients proposes to adopt a trademark that includes the word green, it raises a potential concern. First, you want your trademark to be unique. Since January of 2009, two thousand four hundred and eighty two (2,482) trademark applications were received by the United States Patent & Trademark Office that contained the word "green." These trademark applications include service marks, product names and tag lines. Recently, the trademark office starting issuing office actions that require the applicant to provide evidence that their product or service actually has the environmentally-friendly attributes indicated by the trademark.

Of course, having a trademark application denied pales in comparison to being the subject of a Federal Trade Commission action. The FTC has issued Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims which are known as the FTC green guides. These guides can be found on the FTC website, or In February of this year, the FTC sent letters to 78 companies, including large retailers such as Kmart, Walmart and Target, warning that they may be breaking the law by selling clothing and other textile products that are labeled and advertised as "bamboo," but actually are made of manufactured rayon fiber. Last year, the FTC actually sued several companies for the same false claims.

Greenwashing can also be harmful to your reputation. EnviroMedia Social Networking hosts a website at that includes a "worst offenders" list. These websites are typically optimized on search engines, meaning that a company's dubious honor of being listed as a greenwashing worst offender can show up before the company's own website in Internet search results. The good news is that this website also offers a "most authentic" list that can help spotlight your company's positive efforts to help the environment.

This article is not intended to provide legal advice. Always consult an attorney for legal advice for your particular situation.


Founded by Berny Dohrmann over 20 years ago, CEO Space is a private entrepreneurial business club with an environment that we created for people to be able to get quick results with their business through networking, education, and resources. Berny Dohrmann recently won the 2011 Inpex Ambassador Award for tireless contribution to inventors worldwide. For a one-time tuition payment Entrepreneurs receive a Lifetime membership and one free class, as well as a lifetime of mentoring, contacts; resources, and most of all a lifetime of support for you and your business as you grow. CEO Space is certified for Continuing Education credits. You can learn about Contracts, Government Contracts, I.T., Business Planning, Licensing, Marketing, Transformational Leadership and other topics at CEO Space.

ABOUT: Maria Crimi Speth is an IP attorney and is a shareholder in the Phoenix business law firm of Jaburg Wilk. She heads the intellectual property law department and assists client with trademark, IP law and Internet issues. Maria is a frequent speaker on intellectual property law and is the author of the book, Protect Your Writings, a Legal Guide for Authors.

For more information on CEO Space please visit or call CEO Space at 256.850.4700.

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The Emergence of The Relationship Economy
The Emergence of the Relationship Economy features TNNWC Founder, Adam J. Kovitz as a contributing author and contains some of his early work on The Laws of Relationship Capital. The book is available in hardcopy and e-book formats. With a forward written by Doc Searls (of Cluetrain Manifesto fame), it is considered a "must read" for anyone responsible for the strategic direction of their business. If you would like to purchase your own copy, please click the image above.


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