Green Shift firm files $8.5M trademark suit against Liberals

A Toronto environmental firm has filed an $8.5-million lawsuit to get the federal Liberals to stop using the company's trademark name — Green Shift — for the party's new carbon-tax plan.

A Toronto environmental consulting and supply company filed an $8.5-million lawsuit against the federal Liberals on Wednesday, accusing the party of trying to "steamroll" the firm into letting them use the company's trademark name for a new carbon-tax plan.

Green Shift Inc. owner Jennifer Wright personally delivered a statement of claim at Liberal party headquarters in Ottawa Wednesday as she launched the lawsuit, a lawsuit Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion later called "deplorable."

The statement says Wright, who has owned Green Shift since 1999 and registered the company name in 2001, is seeking the $8.5 million for "general and special damages" and a further $250,000 for aggravated and punitive damages.

At a press conference in Ottawa following the suit being filed, Wright said she has spent more than 10 years developing the company, which is not and has never been affiliated with any political party.

"Just because they are a large organization and we are a small company, they think they can just steamroll over us and claim the name really as their own," Wright said. "Well, they can't and they must return the name.

"If they take our name, they've taken us."

But hours later in a scrum with reporters in Mississauga, Ont., Dion defended the use of the name, saying the party is not a commercial company and that the Green Shift name is a description of a policy that's well perceived around the world.

Dion said they were told there is no legal problem with the name.

"In a practical way we are ready to work with this businesswoman to be sure that this will work well for her but it is deplorable that she wants to go in court this way against us," he said.

The lawsuit seeks a court injunction to stop the party from using or displaying the words "Green Shift," or any other trademark or internet domain name that is similar to the logo used by Green Shift, which has had its trademark registered since 2003.

Wright dismissed the Liberals' contention that the party gave the firm advance notice, saying Katie Telford, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion's deputy chief of staff, only informed them the night before it was released.

She also offered some fierce words for Liberal MP Garth Turner, accusing him of launching a "personal attack" against her on his blog last month when he wrote the firm should be grateful for the attention its website garnered over the buzz about the Liberal plan.

"Who the hell does Garth Turner think he is?" Wright said.

'They've virtually ignored us'

Wright said that since the Liberals launched their plan, her firm has been contending with phone calls and e-mails asking if it has been taken over by the party or endorsed it.

She added the company has worked with government departments of all stripes across the country, including consulting with the Ontario NDP for its election campaign last year, and cannot afford being associated with any one party.

"Worse yet, we're getting a number of people saying they would like to boycott our company due to this misperceived political affiliation," she said.

"They've ignored our deadlines and they've virtually ignored us," Wright said.

With files from the Canadian Press