On the surface, the topics of intellectual property and animal cruelty may seem to have little, if any, overlap. However, the links between these topics are closer than most assume them to be. The form of intellectual property most closely associated with animal cruelty is the trademark.
There are trademarks which pertain to topics such as the use of animal products and animal testing. Other related trademarks provide evidence that no animal cruelty took place during the manufacture of a specific product. Since trademarks can be connected to animal cruelty, intellectual properties thus have a role to play in stamping out animal cruelty in their respective jurisdictions.
There are certain trademarks which prove that a particular product was made without causing any harm to animals. The owners of such trademarks which have created these trademarks license them to entities such as business owners or organizations proven to avoid animal cruelty in the manufacture of their products. Applicants which have received approval to use a cruelty-free trademark may then display the cruelty-free trademark logo on the exterior of the products being sold. Cruelty-free trademarks are not universal; an applicant which has received approval to use one specific cruelty-free trademark does not automatically receive the right to use other such trademarks.
Approval to use a cruelty-free trademark via a license is non-transferable. This is because only the creators of the cruelty-free trademark have the necessary mechanisms to conduct an independent audit and monitor a claim that no acts of animal cruelty were committed during product manufacturing. Once the creators and overseers of the trademark are sure that all of their criteria have been fulfilled, the applicant may begin using the trademark.
Animal Byproduct-free Trademarks
There are some trademarks which go a step beyond that of ensuring that no animal cruelty was involved in product manufacturing. Such trademarks certify that no animal byproducts were even used in the manufacture of the product. Business owners which have received approval to use these trademarks are also to abstain from testing products on animals as well as avoid product cross-contamination by allowing their manufactured products to come into contact with animal byproducts or items containing them.
Before granting any business owner approval to use this type of trademark, the trademark owners will scrutinize the business owner’s specification sheets and ingredient lists. If the trademark owners’ criteria regarding cruelty-free and animal byproduct-free status are fulfilled, the applicant may pay a licensing fee and then display the trademark in conjunction with all products being sold.
Trademarks and Animal Cruelty Laws
Any business owner which owns a trademark related to animals must abide by all laws pertaining to animal cruelty in force. A business owner which fails to do so will not only be punished according to those laws’ stipulations; the business owner also runs the risk of losing the rights to the trademark in question. Entire animal-related trademark portfolios may even be cancelled in the event of flagrant violations of animal cruelty laws.
If the owner of a registered trademark is found to be involved in illegal use of the trademark, conduct activities deemed to be disparaging in the capacity of a trademark owner, or display gross negligence and insufficient oversight over a specific trademark, the owner of that trademark may lose the rights to the trademark in accordance with intellectual property laws. This is because each of these characteristics can be evidenced when animal cruelty laws are violated. Therefore, intellectual property authorities can take a stand against animal cruelty by cancelling the trademarks of owners who flout such laws.
Trademark Infringement and Protection of Animals
Certain organizations or foundations may have been expressly established for the protection of animals. These establishments typically possess the rights to trademarks of their own. As is the case with other trademarks, these can be infringed when another business or organization attempts to register a trademark which is either identical or similar to the trademark of the organization protecting the animals.
Such instances of trademark infringement are not only blatant violations of intellectual property laws; they are also indirect acts of animal cruelty. By using an identical or similar trademark, offending businesses or organizations may cause patrons of the organization which owns the original trademark to be drawn away from it. This may in turn cause the animals to suffer because with the reduction in revenue experienced as a result of the trademark infringement, the affected organization would then become less financially able to protect and care for the animals. Therefore, those who violate the intellectual property rights of such organizations have played a role in facilitating animal cruelty.