Trademark Wars Taint Remembrance Day Poppies

canada poppy image

Photo Credit Striatic
Remembrance Day in Canada is Veterans Day and Memorial Day rolled into one big deal, a statutory holiday in much of the country. Just about everyone wears a poppy, sold by the Royal Canadian Legion to support veterans. The Legion is vigorous in protecting its symbol from knockoffs, telling Oliver Moore of the Globe and Mail: "We have to protect the trademark from infringement or anyone can be out there selling poppies and taking money for who knows what purpose."

That's why Nova Scotia College of Art And Design Students Georgia Nebison, Kate Mitchell and Victoria Lane are nervous; they have built a better, greener poppy.Their poppy is impregnated with real poppy seeds; after Remembrance Day you can plant it. Oliver Moore writes:

Kate Mitchell, the student who actually made the poppies, explained that handmade paper was impregnated with seeds while wet. For the project poppy, seeds from the supermarket stood in for growing seeds. The paper was then pressed into a mould cast from a traditional poppy.

"They're actually fairly durable," she said. "They won't fall apart in the rain if you're there for an hour."

white poppy image

The designers may yet have a challenge; even though white poppies have been around as anti-war statements in the UK since 1933, symbolizing "the belief that there are better ways to resolve conflicts than killing strangers", the Legion went after the Island Peace Committee in Prince Edward Island for selling them. The Legion is dismissive of peace activists:

"The people who are distributing these poppies are normally people who have never spent a day in the service of their country in their lives," Jim Ross, president of the Legion's P.E.I. provincial command, told CBC News on Monday. "To denigrate a symbol of the remembrance of people who died for this country certainly is emotional."

Leo Broderick of the Island Peace Committee told the National Post:

Broderick said white poppies are "a long tradition" that dates back to 1926 when women affected by war started to campaign to represent non-violent solutions. "I don't think (it's disrespectful)," Broderick said. "Most of the people I talk to believe the red poppy symbolizes the respect we need to pay for those (soldiers) who died (in war), but the white poppy goes beyond and asks that all people who have died as a result of war be remembered."

Bob Butt of Dominion Command of the Legion took action to shut down the activists:

"We have sent the distributors of the white poppy an email saying cease and desist . . . and if they don't, then we will consider further legal action because it is an infringement on our trademark," Butt said. "The poppy itself is trademarked by the Legion - in all colours."

That is enough to make me rip off my poppy.

More on Remembrance Day and Peace Activism
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Margaret Mead, the Origins of War & Building a Greener Future

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