EcoLabs under Threat: Corporate Encroachment of ‘eco’ and ‘labs’

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EcoLabs is a small non-profit environmental education organisation based in London. We are engaged in research, design and visual communication of complex ideas and ecological literacy. We have been doing this work under the name EcoLabs – the ecological literacy initiative since 2006. We publish all our award-winning designs work for free on-line (thousands of visual resources have been downloaded on our website – www.eco-labs.org).

Meanwhile, a corporation called Ecolab is a 60 year old multi-national with a turn-over of over $6bn/year. They sell sanitation, food safety and pest extermination products and services. Last year Ecolab sent us (and our Internet provider) a series of threatening letters. We took legal council and our lawyer argued that Eco-Labs.org is entitled to use the words ‘eco’ and ‘labs’ in this context. Last week we received notice that Ecolab.com are again attempting to force EcoLabs to change our domain name. The case will be overseen by National Arbitration Forum  in Minneapolis at the end of May.

The prefix ‘ECO‘ is in common usage, being shorthand for the term ‘ecological’. The term ‘LABS‘ refers to the research and development conducted as part of our communication design practice. Both words are so common that it is absurd for a corporate entity to assume the legal right to prevent others from combining these two ideas together. Language is a commons resource freely available to us all to reinvent and modify as we evolve. It sets a problematic precedent to allow corporations to define what can be called ‘eco’ or ‘labs’. Continue reading