If you’re an environmental group, simply being able to use the word “planet” in your work seems as if it should be fairly straightforward. But, an intellectual property battle is now brewing in France, between a media giant and a collective of environmental NGOs, over the use of the word.
The Paris-based company Groupe Canal+, or the Canal+ Group, comprises a long list of TV channels broadcasted around the French-speaking world, as well as a renowned film studio, Studio Canal. When it launched one of its channels, Planète+, which airs documentaries, in 1999, it trademarked the word planète or planet. Since then, it has regularly opposed trademarks by other companies whose names contain the word, and has lately been targeting a range of environmental NGOs—whose work is committed to saving said planet.
One group, Planète Amazone, is planning to release a documentary in February on the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, and recently tried to register its name as a trademark. The group’s director, Gert-Peter Bruch, told The Associated Press that they received a letter from Groupe Canal+’s legal affairs department “claiming ownership of the planet brand.” Bruch thought it was so absurd that he was sure it was a fake letter (and even worried about clicking on the email attachment for fear of a virus). Bruch now has until Wednesday to file materials to the INPI, France’s intellectual property authority, to avoid legal action.