‘Earth Day’ trademark owned by Canadian charitable organization

Not many people may know this but the term 'Earth Day' is actually owned by a charitable organization that enforces its use.

The company, Earth Day Canada, argues such protection is necessary to prevent corporations and groups from "shamelessly" exploiting it for profit while doing little for the environment.

"Our goal is to make sure corporations don't use it to boost their bottom line," says the Toronto-based company's spokesman Keith Treffry.

Ownership of such a well-used term doesn't come without controversy and in some cases legal action. He declined to say if the company is embroiled in any current trademark disputes.

But Earth Day Canada has tussled with department store Zellers and others in the past. It's owned the trademarked name since the early 1990s.

"We're a pretty lean organization  . . . we have to choose our battles," says Treffy."I wish I could say it's black and white but it's really a case-by-case scenario."

The company employs about 15 to 20 full-time staff. It has an events coordinator who helps organizations arrange Earth Day (Friday, April 22) activities. It also works with firms that meet its corporate objectives.

Several of the companies it currently works with include Toyota Canada (Prius), Panasonic Canada and Sobeys.

But don't expect Earth Day Canada to get heavy handed with community organizations and schools that use the ubiquitous term.

If it's not directly related to the sale of a product, the name can be used without question, such as putting up a banner that simply states, "Earth Day is coming, do your part," Treffy says.

Also, Earth Day Canada president Jed Goldberg says ownership of the trademark gives it a source of revenue "that makes much of our charitable work possible."

As for flak for owning a trademark on such a widely used term, Goldberg says it prevents the "mass commericialization" of Earth Day that wound render it meaningless as an environmental cause.

Starting as an environmental awareness event in the United States in 1970, Earth Day is celebrated as the birth of the environmental movement, the company states.

More than six million Canadians take part in the event.

(AFP Photo)