Turns out there’s big money in shifty business: Liveblogging the Green Shift Inc. press conference

UPDATE: This Canadian Press story is a fabulous backgrounder, and will make the news conference make considerably more sense – well, as far as the questions go.

10:50:05 AM
Oh, Canadian Press, why must you be such a rebel? In case you’ve not yet seen the wire, the embargo went kaboom approximately ten minutes after we were sternly requested not to go live with the details until the plaintiff—Green Shift Inc. founder Jennifer Wright, in case you’re just joining the festivities—takes the microphone in the Charles Lynch press theatre.

Anyway, now that the organically-fed cat has been let out of the recycleable fair trade bag, I can reveal that she’s suing for the not-inconsiderable sum of $8.5 million, plus a quarter million in punitive and aggravated damages—and asking for a permanent injunction to prevent the Liberals from “passing off” the trademark, a statement acknowledging that they have “directed public attention” to their wares, services or business in such a way as to cause or be likely to cause confusion in Canada.”

10:58:26 AM

Two minutes to go!

11:02:48 AM
And she’s off, introducing herself as the founder of the real Green Shift, which is more than the name of her company, she says, but the program she has been building for the last ten years.

Interestingly, she refers to the Liberal “tax plan.” What an odd choice of words.

11:04:14 AM
She’s not here to discuss “Mr. Dion’s tax plan,” she says, but the lawsuit. So don’t be asking her any tricky questions about carbon taxes and cap-and-trade, y’all.

Who are all these companies and institutions that are “part of the Green Shift,” incidentally? She seems to use the term interchangeably – Green Shift, the company, and Green Shift, the “movement”.

11:06:56 AM
More background on the infamous call from “Liberal representative” Katie Telford who had the “audacity” to call her the night before to give her the heads up on the launch of the Liberal plan and “that fellow” Joseph Mayer. But Wright saves her most concentrated ire for “Who the Hell is Garth Turner?”, who had the nerve to write on his blog that she should be grateful.

11:09:29 AM
Question from Sun Media on how she arrived at the $8.5 million figure. “Marketing experts,” she says. Last year, business exceeded a million.

11:10:34 AM
Asked whether the launch has cost them actual business, she dodges the question; companies are “staying quiet” thus far, although some have asked her to keep their name out of it.

Ironically, she notes, the company has also worked with the Ontario Liberal Party, as well as the federal Liberals. (Maybe, she’s not sure.)

11:12:21 AM
Does she own the trademark? It has been applied for, but it’s not approved—although it has made it through “five” stages so far.

11:12:57 AM
Good question from CanWest: Doesn’t it bother her that the Green Party has a “Green Tax Shift”? No, is the upshot.

Being small, the company hasn’t been able to put advertising on “every” project out there, but there are “at least 15 million coffee cups out there” that were produced by Green Shift, Inc.

11:14:17 AM
Tim Naumetz brings up all those other uses of the phrase “green shift” and suggests that she has seen the term out there. Why does she have a right to the term? She’d be happy to explain, she says, but she really doesn’t. Apparently, there was a tussle over—owned by an American company—which the company eventually abandoned.

As for the British use, she… Is she seriously claiming to have invented the term “green shift”? She is. Wow.

11:17:36 AM
More from Tim, who has done his homework on what Green Shift, Inc. actually does: coffee cups and other supplies, which it provides to companies. “We’re here to be a program for those who want to be leaders,” she says. The symbol and the name Green Shift show that this is a company that people can trust.

11:19:46 AM
And now, Wright delivers short history of trademark law, and an attempt to explain why Elizabeth May’s “Green Tax Shift” is fine, but the Liberal “Green Shift” isn’t.

11:20:59 AM
The CBC’s Rosemary Barton tries to get her to comment on the Green Shift as a plan; she demurs, although she reminds us once again that she is an environmental consultant. “As for the tax plan,” she might be in favour of it; she doesn’t know. She’s not here to slam anyone else’s program, she’s here to get free publicity for her program. Sorry, I meant to get the Liberals to stop using “her” name.

11:23:44 AM
Naumetz wants to know what she means by “tackle” – as in, “tackling pollution.” It seems to involve “assessing” products, but also corporate reputations. “Nothing is closer to my heart than toilet paper,” she says, bafflingly, in mid-tangent about the work she’s done with the pulp and paper industry. She’s here to “harness the power of environmental leaders.” Wait, what?

11:25:47 AM
Asked which government agencies she worked for, she names the EcoLogo program and the US-based Green Seal, but that seems at least partially to have been during her career as an environmental auditor.

It just gets more confusing when Naumetz attempts to figure out exactly which department paid her to wander around asking “What’s in that carper?” “What’s in that flag?” I’m not going to transcribe the whole thing; let’s just say there are uncomfortable silences, and they’re not on Naumetz’s part.

11:29:22 AM
She says she had “offers” of pro bono legal help, but decided that she wanted “someone good”—ouch, poor nameless good samaritan trademark lawyers—and decided to stay with her original lawyer. She’s ready to fight til the bitter end, even if it “bankrupts” the company.

11:30:43 AM
“There’s been a lot of confusion in the media about the trademark versus the company name,” she notes. I have to say I’m still a little confused. “We’ve had to define things that aren’t in the dictionary,” she says, like “biodegradable”! Wait, in 2001, she had to explain to the trademark registrars what biodegradable meant?

The important point is that the Liberals have “done a lot of damage,” she says, which will require “cleaning” the Internet so that the Liberal plan isn’t the only hit that turns up.

“We’re not a common name out there yet,” she acknowledges, but it’s getting out there. People are starting to hear the phrase “green shift” and think of her company, apparently. Or were, until that dastardly Stéphane Dion ruined everything. It could cost as much as $10 million for the company to rebrand, she claims.

11:35:31 AM
SunMedia asks about the risk that the public will see this as the environmental movement “fighting amongst themselves,” which Wright readily agrees is “terrible … These are all our customers!” Really? Which ones, exactly? The lack of any tangible examples of any actual companies who have expressed concern, or pulled their business due to the controversy is… odd.

11:38:24 AM
Also odd, as Naumetz points out, is the absence of any Green Shift products. Where are the coffee cups, the posters, the stuff? Back at the hotel, apparently. “I’m not perfect, Tim,” says a grumpy Michael Krauss, who looks like he’d like this to wrap up soon.

She’s actually giving more details now, in response to queries about where we can actually see her coffee cups in the wild, but again, it’s hard to follow.

11:40:58 AM
Wait, what? Now she’s saying that “Green Shift” actually applies to a “network of companies” that are striving to be environmentally responsible. It’s also the name of her company, and the program offered, and a “concept.”

Meanwhile, Michael Krauss is handing out examples of the Green Shift poster, which was printed in 2008.

11:43:14 AM
Last question: she claims that the Liberal use of the term will “only damage” the company, which prompts her to deliver a rather esoteric manifesto on breaking down barriers—race, gender, you name it—and social justice. And on that inscrutable note, she and we are out of here.

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