Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time. Global greenhouse gas emissions, the main driver of climate change, continue to rise rapidly with an observed carbon dioxide (CO2) peak at 421 parts per million in May 2022 . In 2019, the European Commission established action on climate change as a priority, promising to deliver a European Green Deal with the aim of making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Addressing climate change is dependent on economic growth that works with, rather than against, the environment. Innovative green technology solutions can help by allowing us to do more with less – be it alternative energy production, energy saving, or greener forms of transportation, agriculture and forestry.
Traditionally, patents are the IP right most closely associated with innovation in the eyes of policymakers and the general public. However, ‘green’ trademarks, specifically EUTM filings that contain relevant terms in their G&S specifications, are also valid indicators of innovation in the applicable sectors. The number of such trademarks has grown significantly since the EUIPO began accepting EUTM applications in 1996, showing that environmental considerations are becoming increasingly important for brand owners filing trademark applications.
Green trademarks are also key indicators that influence the decision of consumers. These trademarks play an important part in ensuring that consumers know what they are getting or that the product that they are buying complies with certain standards.
What is a green trademark?
A green trademark is a collective term for specific trademarks, service marks, and certification marks that communicate environmentally friendly products, services, or practices. The general purpose of trademarks might either be to create an investment or to ensure that third parties do not have the opportunity to monopolize a term or a sign. The purpose of green trademarks is mainly to inform consumers about the environmentally friendly nature of goods, services and technologies. In this way, businesses are able to demonstrate their share for sustainable development as well as to influence environmentally-conscious consumers in their purchase decisions.
Green Trademark Trends in EU
The EUIPO has carried out research to capture the change in environmental awareness and innovation in the trademark field. In 2021, it published an extensive report on the number of "green" EU Trademarks and their respective industry sectors.
For the purposes of this research, an inventory of 'Harmonised Green Terms' was developed based on the list of the standardised description of G&S in EUIPO's Harmonised Database. On this basis, a predictive model was developed that enabled the algorithm to determine if any of the terms covered by the trademark application can be considered a 'green term', allowing for the classification of certain EUTMs under the 'green EUTM' category. More than 2 million EUTM applications received by EUIPO since 1996 were searched using this algorithm. The main finding of the study is that growing interest in sustainability is indeed reflected in the EUTMs filings at the EUIPO. This finding is supported by the following data:
In 1996 the EUIPO received 1,588 filings relating to sustainability. In 2020, that number jumped to nearly 16,000.
Non-EU based filings accounted for the largest numbers of non-EU 'green' trademark applications in 2020 – with filings from China as the biggest contributor. South Korea, Switzerland, and the USA also account for large numbers of non-EU filings.
The EU member states with the most green EUTM filings were Germany, Spain, France, Italy and the Netherlands.
Categories such as 'energy saving' (42.9%), 'pollution control' (17,7%), 'transportation' (9.7%), and 'energy production' (9.7%) were key areas to the growth of registrations. In contrast, only 6% of EUTM applications related to 'reuse/recycling'.
Advantages of Green Trademarks for Brands
Due to growing environmental concerns, consumers today are increasingly conscious of environmental issues, and many prefer to buy and consume products that are environmentally friendly. Over the past five years, there has been a 71% rise in online searches for sustainable goods globally . According to a survey from McKinsey & Co., 66% of all respondents and 75% of millennial respondents say that they consider sustainability when they make a purchase. More and more 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 not just for winning more consumers but also potential employees. With the growing intensity of the war for talented individuals, green focus can be viewed as a positive factor in attracting future talent. Some other financial benefits of registering green trademarks include increased investment opportunities, as green-focused startups can often take advantage of a far wider range of grants, loans and funding than a traditional business might. Still not convinced? Read about 12 good reasons for environmentally-focused companies to register a trademark to find out more about benefits of green trademarks.