Can Trademarks Ever Be Green? Between Green-Branding and Greenwashing

International Trademark Association (INTA) publishes Massimo Maggiore’s article focusing on green branding and greenwashing issues on IP Law


Consumers are demanding positive messages about the environmentally friendly properties of the products and services they buy. Employing green-branding practices using terms such as “eco” or “green” is an attractive marketing tool for businesses. Yet one should not overlook the risks of using invalid trademarks or of falling afoul of the laws prohibiting misleading practices.

Consumers’ Eco-Awareness

We live in an era of consumeristic, augmented environmental sensitivity. A common strategy or “must-have” marketing tool for many companies is to cultivate green brands and eco-marks—trademarks, service marks, and certification marks that communicate environmentally friendly products, services, or practices. Consumers are growing increasingly sensitive to the toll on the environment exacted by their purchases and are seeking reassuring messages about the green properties of products and services. The acronym LOHAS, standing for “lifestyles of health and sustainability,” has been used to identify these eco-conscious consumers.

Green-Branding vs. Greenwashing

Green-branding refers to either of the following (or a combination of the two):

  1. The practice of using trademarks that, through their words or symbols, convey messages of environmental friendliness. Words such as “green,” “eco,” “sustainable,” or “zero impact,” or the depiction of leaves or clear water within a trademark work in this direction; and/or
  2. General slogans about “greenness” used in conjunction with a brand.

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