.@Gap Inc (US) - Stop Bullying A small Indian Company
I started Green the Gap 5 years ago to work in the areas of sustainability and fair trade. Part of our work involves providing secure employment with reasonable wages for disadvantaged people. But we are in danger of being shut down by international clothing manufacturer GAP Inc (US). All because we have the word “Gap” in our name.
On March 1st this year, 'Green the Gap' has been served a legal notice to STOP the 'unauthorized' use of the word 'GAP'.
Gap Inc. doesn’t even have a store in India. Media reports suggest that they may be opening stores in India soon. However, they want us to change the name of the company, while we have been our organisation in India for more than 4 years.
Gap Inc. is notoriously known to go way beyond the rational and legal interpretations of its trademark rights as its corporate strategy to limit and sabotage emerging small businesses in different parts of the world. But we have decided to stand up against this trademark bullying.
Through this petition, we are asking Gap Inc. to drop the legal notice issued to us, asking us to change the name. This is unfair on the part of a big company. They are trying to bully us into changing the name of our company just because we are using the word ‘Gap’ in our name. Sign the petition and support us.
Mr Glenn K. Murphy
Chairman and CEO
2 Folsom St.
San Francisco, CA 94105
Dear Mr Glenn K Murphy,
I write to you as a member of the civil society who recognizes the capability of small fair-trade organizations like Green the Gap to create a world of responsible and environmentally conscious consumers. I strongly denounce your efforts to extend your trademark rights over your brand name ‘GAP’ beyond any rational or legal interpretations. I see it as a clear attempt to sabotage emerging and responsible small businesses like Green the Gap (GtG).
I urge you to step back and re-look at your unreasonable claims over the word ‘gap’. That, as an international corporate house of your size and stature, you should encourage environmental initiatives like Green the Gap (GtG) and not engage in acts of ‘trademark bullying’ to harass and intimidate another business beyond what the law might be reasonably interpreted to allow.
The origin and basis on the choice of name by Green the Gap clearly is linked to the broader environmental initiatives of Swechha, a leading youth and environment organization of India registered under the Societies registration act of 1860, India. GtG originates from the environment education programme of Swechha called Bridge the Gap and was envisaged as an active arm of the organization that promotes environmentally responsible choices of consumption and production of ‘everyday use products’ by people. GtG as part of its mandate seeks to create a culture of business that seeks to ensure secure employment and appropriate wages to all its employees.
The brand name of Green the Gap has a very strong association to green and the use of the word ‘Gap’ is limited to its dictionary use signifying a ‘void’ that exists in our society and consumption patterns that limit our choices to constructively contribute to a sustainable value chain. As a person and a consumer, I find it extremely unsettling that Gap Inc seeks to limit the use of the word ‘Gap’ even to the irrational levels of its dictionary interpretations. It reflects very negatively on both your intention and your business ethics to attempt to limit such expressions and usage of the word by socially and environmentally responsible small businesses.
You might want to reflect on the fact that Green the Gap has been nationally and internationally recognized on several forums as an important initiative for our sustainable future. In fact, several governments of the world along with UN agencies are in appreciation of the work and mandate of Green the Gap. GtG was also conferred with the bright young climate leaders nomination by British Council in 2010. Most recently the founder of Green the Gap has been conferred with one of the 10 Global Economic Fellows of the world for his work with Green the Gap.GtG since its inception has received numerous appreciation of its successful work and innovative ways of creating opportunities for consumers to contribute to a shared sustainable future.
It is pertinent to note that the product lines of GtG and Gap Inc bear no similarity at all in their design, manufacturing processes or even customer bases. GtG seeks to create its own customer base with a focus on ‘green lines’ of consumption mandated by its fair-trade and sustainability principles. At any point in time, GtG has absolutely no benefits that can ever be accrued from the corporate image of Gap Inc. It is also clear that Green the Gap’s mission, product focus and sustainable futuristic goals do not hold any commonality with product lines of Gap Inc.
In fact the distinctive logo of Green the Gap and all its mark further establish a clear distinction from Gap Inc rather than impersonating any confusion for consumers whatsoever. As a consumer, I can very clearly distinguish between Gap Inc. and Green the Gap and have absolutely no confusions whatsoever when I am making my choices to buy environmentally upcycled, fair-trade products of GtG.
You must most definitely note that
1. Indian courts of justice have been very clear that descriptive terms such as gap – even when they form part of a registered trade mark – will not be considered infringing on legally mandated trademark rights of any business group when used by a third party as part of their own labelling .
2. The marks are not sufficiently similar for there to be infringement, as required by Section 29 (1), (2), or (4) of the Indian Trade Marks Act, 1999
3. Under Section 29(4) of the Indian Trade Marks Act 1999, the ‘unfair advantage’ claim requires that there is (i) unfairness; (ii) advantage – in the form of an image transfer or some financial benefit by way of free riding; and (iii) it needs to be without ‘due cause’. None of these requirements are satisfied by Green the Gap rendering your claims illegal, unmindful, and irrational
As a responsible citizen and an active member of the civil society, I view your legal communication with Green the Gap as baseless threats with deep seated malafide intentions to subjugate a highly creative and sustainably responsible environmental initiative. I strongly urge you to refrain from such irresponsible acts of corporate trademark bullying and rightfully withdraw your claims of trademark infringement in good time.
As an internationally acclaimed and leading corporate house you should rather display commitment and intentions to support such wonderful small business initiatives like Green the Gap (GtG). This will not only help you make a positive contribution to a sustainable planet but ensure for your company the good will of long-term committed relationships from responsible consumers like me.
Thank you for addressing these concerns. I look forward to learning what steps you have taken in addressing this important matter.