Australia’s largest electricity generator largely lost its court case alleging environmental group Greenpeace had breached copyright and trademark laws by using its logo in a campaign that described the company as the nation’s “biggest climate polluter”.
On Tuesday, Justice Stephen Burley ruled that AGL Energy had failed in its trademark infringement claim and failed in its copyright infringement claim for all of the uses of the logo except for three social media posts as well as some photographs and placards.
Judge Burley denied AGL’s request for damages.
Greenpeace had argued the Federal Court case had significant implications for charities and advocacy groups.
Greenpeace also described AGL as the latest fossil fuel corporation to seek to stifle dissent through litigation.
— Greenpeace Australia Pacific (@GreenpeaceAP) June 8, 2021
In the online advertising campaign, Greenpeace Australia Pacific accused AGL, which predominantly generates coal-fired electricity, of “greenwashing” by promoting itself as a leading investor in renewable energy.
The campaign used the AGL logo and featured the slogan, “AGL – Australia’s Greatest Liability”.
AGL unsuccessfully applied for an interim court order in early May that would have forced Greenpeace to stop using the logo.
Greenpeace argued during a one-day hearing last week that Australian trademark law allows for the logo to be used for satire, parody and criticism.
AGL lawyer Megan Evetts told the court there was a “clear intention to harm the brand” through the Greenpeace campaign.
“AGL is not seeking to stifle public debate. What it is seeking to do is protect itself, protect its intellectual property rights,” Ms Evetts said.
Greenpeace lawyer Neil Murray told the court the campaign did not breach the law because it did not use the AGL trademark in a trade context and its motives were “pure”.
AGL accepted in its latest annual report that it was Australia’s largest greenhouse gas emitter with plans to continue generating electricity by burning coal until 2048, Mr Murray said.
The campaign was aimed at ending Australian reliance on coal-fired power by 2030, as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Australia’s Clean Energy Regulator confirms that AGL is the nation’s largest greenhouse gas polluter, accounting for 8 per cent of the nation’s total emissions.
Greenpeace and AGL must return to court on Wednesday to offer wording for orders to give the judge’s verdict effect.