Friday, June 19, 2009

Corporate Knights/Maclean’s battle turns nasty

Maclean’s magazine launched its inaugural “Jantzi-Macleans 50 Most Socially Responsible Corporations” in this week’s issue, prompting an angry response from rival publication Corporate Knights, which has been publishing its own “Best 50 Corporate Citizens” issue for eight years.

“While we welcome newcomers to the corporate responsibility realm, it’s unfortunate that Maclean’s seems to have taken a run at our market share by using a trademark that is, in our considered opinion, confusing with our distinctive trademark,” said Corporate Knights president Toby Heaps in a press release.

“The good news,” said Heaps, “is that concern about this confusion, shared by many eminent Canadians, presents an excellent chance, at a time of economic and ecological upheaval, for [Maclean’s publisher] Ken Whyte and I to flesh out for the Canadian public, what exactly is a good corporate citizen, and how one goes about defining one.”

According to the Corporate Knights website, Ken Whyte refused an invite from CBC's The Current for a Maclean's-Corporate Knights debate on corporate citizenry.

Masthead magazine contacted Ken Whyte about the Corporate Knights challenge, Whyte replied, via e-mail: "I’m still not sure who they are but I’m delighted that they read Maclean’s. I had no real knowledge of these guys until June 12 when I received a nasty letter from their lawyer threatening to sue us for trademark violation over our cover line Best 50 Corporate Citizens. They demanded we pull all copies from newsstand, destroy them, print a retraction in Maclean’s, and pay them $4 million dollars. They further threatened to open a public relations campaign against us if we failed to comply. Turns out they don’t even own the trademark to Best 50 Corporate Citizens. They’ve tried to trademark it and been rejected, twice, on the grounds that it is a descriptive phrase and couldn’t be appropriated for exclusive use. As you might understand, I’m not interested in furthering their efforts to publicize themselves at our expense."

Heaps responded to Whyte’s comments to Masthead via e-mail. "I think it borders on credulity for him to say he hadn't heard of our Best 50 Corporate Citizens. His research partner, Jantzi, was the same one that did our first Best 50 ranking - before we took on our rankings in house with the establishment of the Corporate Citizenship Database established on intellectual property built up with Industry Canada financing.”

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