Australia’s largest electricity company AGL Energy has lost its case against Greenpeace Australia Pacific for the use of their logo in the organisation’s recent campaign.

AGL brought the case against Greenpeace claiming they had breached copyright and trademark laws in using the identifiable AGL logo in a campaign which labelled them as the country’s “biggest climate polluter”.

On June 8, Justice Stephen Burley found Greenpeace had not infringed AGL’s trademark or copyright with the exception of three social media posts and a small number of marketing materials.

AGL’s request for damages was denied.

Greenpeace chief executive David Ritter said the organisation was “delighted” about the win.

“Not only did we win overwhelmingly on a point of important principle. But AGL brought this case to try, in our opinion, and silence us but instead what they succeeded in doing was generating … media articles around the world, all of which noted that they were Australia’s worst corporate climate polluters,” he said.

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In a statement to NIT, AGL said their Climate Statement outlines their target to reach “net-zero emissions by 2050”.

The company’s most recent annual report noted they were the nation’s largest greenhouse gas emitter with plans to continue burning coal until 2048.

The Greenpeace campaign in question accused AGL of “green-washing” by presenting themselves as a leader in renewable energy.

“They talk a very big game about renewables, on their website you’ll see pictures of children running towards windmills and that sort of thing. But, the reality is that 85 per cent of the power that they sell comes from burning coal. Only 10 per cent comes from renewables,” said Ritter.

“The International Energy Agency says that developed nations have to stop burning coal by 2030, and AGL say they will keep burning coal until 2048. 

“That is a level of irresponsibility that any company should be deeply ashamed of.”

Greenpeace also argued the defence that the logo was used for satire, parody and criticism.

Ritter notes the satirical style of campaigning has been a trademark of the Greenpeace brand for many years.

“It should not be the case that you can use copyright and trademark law to shut down people making fun of you for doing the wrong thing,” he said.

“It has been a big part of the way Greenpeace has worked for many years to make fun of brands that are doing the wrong thing, that is all we were doing here.”

(L-R) Greenpeace Australia Pacific General Counsel Katrina Bullock, CEO David Ritter and Senior Campaigner Glenn Walker. Photo by James Zadro for Greenpeace.

AGL told NIT they welcome the injunction and have continually made clear the intent of the legal action was about “the integrity of how our brand is used”.

“We regularly engage with Greenpeace to discuss their concerns and acknowledge the important role activist organisations play in holding organisations and governments to account,” said an AGL spokesperson.

Greens Senate Candidate for WA Dorinda Cox said the Greens welcome the outcome of AGL’s “senseless court action against activists and Greenpeace”.

“The Greens will always support people and organisations working for a safe climate, over the fossil fuel billionaires that fund the Liberal and Labor parties,” she said.

Victorian Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe said AGL should be “more worried about the fact they’re cooking the planet” than “trying to silence people fighting to prevent catastrophic climate change”.

The Greens have committed to the target of eliminating coal and gas by 2030, in line with international standards.

“Australia is the worst carbon polluter per capita on the planet and is one of the world’s biggest exporters of coal and gas,” said Senator Thorpe.

Cox added that Australia has an opportunity to run on 100 per cent renewable energy and become a renewable superpower.

Greenpeace’s fight against AGL is not the only climate change legal battle in the nation at present, with the Torres Strait Eight fighting to protect their homelands from rising sea levels.

The Torres Strait Eight have taken their case against the Morrison Government to the United Nations.

“All of these cases have at their heart truth. Indigenous owners of this country have been pushing for truth ever since invasion began. In these cases that are about climate change, there is another demand for truth there — about what is happening to our world,” said Ritter.

“These two rivers of truth meet in a case like the Torres Strait Eight. What all of us … have a right to is a Government that will make decisions on the basis of what is truth.

“All of us who care about these things will continue to fight for that truth.”

By Rachael Knowles