Australian power generator takes Greenpeace to court

Greenpeace ship docked in Sydney Harbour in Australia (file photo) Source: iStock/KHellon

Australia's largest electricity generator AGL Energy took Greenpeace to court on Wednesday alleging breaches of copyright and trademark laws in the environmental group's campaign describing AGL as the nation's “biggest climate polluter.''

Greenpeace Australia Pacific has accused AGL, which predominantly generates coal-fired electricity, of “greenwashing'' by promoting itself as a leading investor in renewable energy.

AGL has targeted in the Federal Court Greenpeace's use of its logo in an online advertising campaign featuring 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 argues 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. The court must decide whether Greenpeace owed AGL damages, she said.

“AGL is not seeking to stifle public debate. What it is seeking to do is protect itself, protect its intellectual property rights,'' Evetts said.

Greenpeace campaigner Glenn Walker described the amended AGL logo used in his campaign as a parody.

Under questioning by AGL lawyer John Hennessy, Walker denied that the aim of the campaign was to persuade AGL to change its policy through a loss of customers.

Walker said Greenpeace advised AGL customers to write messages on social media pages, send emails to the AGL chief executive and telephone AGL's customer service centre to raise concerns about the company's climate policy.

“We’ve been very clear in our communication with any AGL customers that we'd actually prefer them to engage with the company because we think that has greater impact in this campaign,'' Walker said.

Walker did not accept Hennessy's proposition that Greenpeace considered AGL a “villain.''

“We regard them as a temporary villain,” Walker said. “Because many of the companies that we target through our campaigning end up becoming quite good corporate players and we congratulate them for that.''

“Ultimately the purpose of the campaign is to get them to shut down their coal-burning power stations and to become a renewable energy leader,'' he added.

Australia's Clean Energy Regulator confirms that AGL is the nation's largest greenhouse gas polluter, accounting for eight per cent of the nation's total emissions.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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