Greenpeace Embroiled in Trademark Infringement and Defamation Lawsuit Over its Pac-Man Parody Game, Turtle vs Tata

August 2nd, 2010

Pac-Man is almost universally recognized as the beloved yellow circle with a mouth who is being chased by the ghosts Blinky, Inkey, Pinky and Clyde. In a twist on this classic arcade game, Greenpeace produced their own version of the game. In the Greenpeace’s version, they have swapped out the usual Pac-Man characters for their own hero and nemesis set; the endangered Gahirmatha turtle featured in yellow and squared off against four colorful Tata symbols named Ratty, Natty, Matty and Tinku.trademark infringement and defamation lawsuit

Go here to play Greenpeace’s parody game, “Turtle vs Tata”

Or here to revert back to the iconic original Pac-Man game in a Flash version

Aside from being a funny twist on a class game, Greenpeace’s “Turtle vs Tata” is also a part of a much larger campaign against Tata Steel and their deep-sea port that is being set up along with L&T at Bhadrak in Orissa. Greenpeace has gotten involved to protest against this Tata project, known as the Dharma Port Project (reminiscent of LOST anyone?), primarily to protect the interests of the Olive Ridley sea turtle population, the smallest extant sea turtle in the world. The Olive Ridley turtles maintain their instinctual nesting sites only 15 kilometres from the location of the location of Tata’s Dharma Port Project.

Greenpeace has been adamantly demanding to conduct an independent environmental study of the Bhadrak region despite the fact that Tata Steel obtained environmental clearance for the site in 1999 and maintains that it has not violated any provisions of the Forest Conservation Act. Despite Tata Steel’s assurances that it isn’t doing anything to harm the environment or the Olive Ridley turtle population, Greenpeace wishes to conduct its own survey to find out the repercussions of dredging in the area and the effects the project will have on the rich bio-diversity of the area.

Thus Greenpeace spawned the “Turtle vs Tata” game as a part of its campaign against Tata Steel to protect the Olive Ridley turtles. However, the seemingly innocent “Turtle vs Tata” game may have been a wrong step for Greenpeace. Tata Steel has brought a lawsuit against the non-governmental environmental organization alleging defamation and trademark infringement and asking for $2.1 million in damages.

On the Greenpeace’s webpage hosting “Turtle vs Tata”, they provide a brief background synopsis of the game while somewhat obliquely referencing the political dispute between Greenpeace (on behalf of the Olive Ridley turtles) and the Tata Steel (the ‘TATA demons’);

“TATAs Dhamra port could be the beginning of the end for Gahirmatha’s turtles. Your objective is simple – get the turtles to eat as many of the white dots – jellyfish and other sea creatures – while dodging the TATA demons! If you eat a power pill, you will be gifted with super-turtle powers to vanquish the demons of development that are threatening your coastal home!

Of course, real life isn’t quite so rosy for the turtles, and they need your help to keep fighting for a safer future!”

trademark infringement attorneysThe trademark infringement and defamation lawsuit;

Tata Steel’s holding company, Tata Sons, filed suit on July 16th in the Delhi High Court alleging infringement of their trademarked logo, a ‘T within a circle’, and defamation.

Last Tuesday, Delhi High Court Justice Ravindra Bhat gave Greenpeace additional time (until August 12) to file their reply to the complaint. Also, Justice Bhat in what he made clear was merely a suggestion and not a directive, suggested that Greenpeace doesn’t have to change the name of its “Turtle vs Tata” game but it should stop using the Tata trademarked logo.

The Intellectual Property specialist law firm Anand and Anand is representing Tata Sons and in a press statement the firm said;

“Greenpeace has unauthorisedly used the Tata trademarks without the permission of Tata Sons, thereby infringing their trademark. Greenpeace herein has not only infringed the trademark rights of Tata Sons, but is also maligning the reputation of Tata Sons.”

Greenpeace is being represented by the Intellectual Property specialist lawyer Saikrishna Rajagopal, Partner of Saikrishna & Associates. In a statement to Bar & Bench he confirmed that he is representing the non-governmental environmental organization but he refused to comment specifically on the case, stating;

“In my opinion it is inappropriate to discuss the case while it is sub-judice. We will articulate our arguments in court.”

Also in a statement to the Bar & Bench, Ashish Fernandes, an Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace said;

“We plan to present the history of our campaign to support our arguments. We will use international precedents to show that our methods are a valid criticism against the project.”

For related articles on this impending case;

Game over for Greenpeace? Tata files defamation and trademark infringement suit: Anand and Anand & Saikrishna Rajgopal in Delhi High Court