The tale of two logos

Feature story - 7 August, 2002
French court decision supporting Greenpeace's right to criticise French nuclear company, Areva, is a wake up call to ExxonMobil to stop hiding behind trademark law and to support moves to combat climate change rather than continuing to deny its existence.

Greenpeace's parody of the logo of French nuclear fuel company, Areva, exposing the deadly nature of their business. Areva are sponsoring the French entry in yachting's 2003 Americas Cup

In a victory for freedom of expression on the internet, a judge in the French High Court ruled Friday 2nd August that Greenpeace had a right to parody the logo of French nuclear fuel company, Areva, as part of its campaign to expose the company's dirty nuclear activities. Areva are fully aware that their image needs attention as they are trying to present themselves as 'clean' through their sponsorship of the French entry in yachting's Americas Cup race in 2003. The French judge ruled against Areva's claim that the logo on the Greenpeace New Zealand and France websites broke French commercial trademark law. The court upheld Greenpeace's right to express opposition to the impact Areva's nuclear reprocessing and nuclear transports have on the environment.

Areva's main subsidiary company, the plutonium reprocessing company COGEMA, has contaminated the seas around France, while Areva's parent body, the French Atomic Energy Commission has polluted Moruroa Atoll, France's former nuclear test site in the South Pacific. Areva's activities continue to put the global environment and public health at risk. This decision in favour of Greenpeace by the French High Court has dealt a blow to Areva's attempt to use the law to censor criticism of the company.

ExxonMobil sues over Greenpeace StopEsso logo on website.

The landmark Areva judgment was in complete contrast to the one a few weeks earlier when another judge in France had ruled that Greenpeace must cease its use of the StopE$$o parody logo in France. Greenpeace had designed the logo as part of its campaign to expose parent company, ExxonMobil's blatant denial of it's responsibility to the world to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

This victory for the freedom of expression and the right to criticise corporate polluters is a wake up call to ExxonMobil to stop hiding behind trademark law and to support moves to combat climate change rather than continue to deny its existence. Their attempts to suppress the universally held view that burning fossil fuels, their core business, causes climate change, are of course highly damaging but are also ridiculous and an affront to the intelligence of their customers. ExxonMobil, the largest company in the world, somehow does not realise that their current customers can choose to buy petrol from other companies who are already funding the provision of clean energy resources and supporting climate protection measures like the Kyoto Protocol.

Both private citizens and public campaigning groups alike have a right, and maybe even a duty, to expose the real nature of polluting companies and this includes the creative use of such tools as the internet. ExxonMobil should heed the warnings of the Areva case and learn that their days of looking for the Law's help to aide them in their denial of responsibility are numbered.

More on the Areva court decision from our website in New Zealand.