The Rise of EV and the Importance of Trademarks

Updated: Feb 4

A few false starts


For many of us, the concept of an electric vehicle (EV) is synonymous with the arrival of the Toyota Prius on the market and the bold vision of a new transportation reality painted by Silicon Valley tech startup Tesla Motors in the early 2000s. However, EVs are certainly not a 21st century invention, and in fact, predate the invention of the electronic television (1927).[1]


In the early 20th century, growing reliance on EVs was set to make this mode of individual transportation the standard until the innovations of Henry Ford’s Model T stole the limelight and market. EVs nearly made a comeback during the oil crisis of 1970s with General Motors and the American Motor Company investing in prototypes and pilot projects as a response to uncertainty surrounding ability to acquire oil. Unfortunately, these vehicles still underperformed in comparison to gas-powered vehicles, and the projects were abandoned.[2] Finally, in the 1990s, new regulations aiming to tackle air pollution and other environmental challenges laid the foundation for an EV renaissance. GM designed the EV1, the first electric vehicle that could apparently keep up technically with gas-powered models. However, despite initial enthusiasm, a multitude of competing interests and a high price tag resulted in the discontinuation (and controversial destruction) of the line.[3]


Shifting EV spending into high gear


The existence of EVs is nothing new. What is unprecedented however, is a critical mass of environmentally-minded consumers and a corresponding political climate, especially in Canada, that positions EVs as a way of driving the transition to a green economy and meeting climate objectives. Governments at every level in Canada have made it clear that they believe that vehicle electrification is an indispensable element of a low-carbon economy bolstered by GreenTech, (“an umbrella term that describes the use of technology and science to create products that are more environmentally friendly”.[4] It encompasses EVs, renewable energy solutions and other cleantech initiatives[5].)


And governments are indeed putting their money where their mouths are, especially now that EVs are expected to significantly impact road transport. According to the BloombergNEF Electric Vehicle Outlook 2020, EV sales are expected to make up 58% of new car sales by 2040 worldwide.[6]


At the federal level, the Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program[7] developed by the Government of Canada sets targets for zero-emission vehicles, seeking to achieve 10% of the light duty vehicles (LDV) sales per year by 2025, 30% by 2030 and 100% by 2040. In its 2019 Budget, the Government of Canada earmarked $130 million dollars over five years (2019-2024) to deploy a network of ZEV charging (level 2 and higher) and refueling stations.

Quebec, with its clean energy production and local manufacturing capabilities, is vying for status as the provincial EV leader in Canada.[8] The Quebec government provides incentives that encourage EV ownership, offering significant rebates to individuals, business, organizations, and municipalities on purchase of lease of new EVs.[9] In recent major news, as part of Quebec’s 2030 Plan for a Green Economy, the province announced the bold step of planning to prohibit the sale of gasoline powered vehicles starting 2035. This comes in addition to targets of 55% of city buses and 65% of school buses electrified by 2030, as well as 100% of governmental cars, SUVs, vans and minivans and 25% of pickup trucks.[10]


At the municipal level, cities like Mississauga[11], Victoria[12], and Toronto[13] are making a low-carbon mobility strategy a key pillar of their Climate Action and Climate Leadership Plans, indicating a growing municipal appetite (and piggybank) for the solutions EVs provide.


On your trademark, get set, go!


This pivot toward EVs shows that the implications, financial and otherwise, of the climate emergency facing our planet are finally starting to influence public spending decision-making bodies. This means that investment in GreenTech in here to stay. Companies that want to take advantage of this new zeitgeist (and potential windfall) need to adapt to this new reality or get left behind.


One way to do so is by ensuring that your business has adopted robust intellectual property strategies[14], including the filing of trademarks. As the market becomes flooded with players trying to get a piece of the green pie, having a distinguishing indicator, developed and nurtured to become inextricably associated with resourcefulness and integrity, will be what allows some brands to sink or swim. Just be careful to avoid greenwashing!


Early acquisition of the rights to your desired trademarks can also save you significant obstacles down the road. As the story goes, in its early days of existence, Tesla had to send someone to camp out on the doorstep of original owner of the undeniably evocative “Tesla Motors” trademark, in hopes of convincing him to sell, which he eventually did for $75,000. And that’s a bargain compared to the price tag on the domain name – a cool $11 million.[15] We can only speculate about whether their back-up name “Faraday Motors” would have garnered the same buzz and intrigue.


The power of green partners


The discourse around new post Covid-19 economy has been framed by an ambitious green rhetoric. To be successful, this will require buy-in from public, private and civil society. Being part of this new economy will require mutual support across sectors. As organizations strive to establish their place at this new crossroads and build the trustworthiness of their trademarks, creating partnerships with entities that enjoy a certain credibility and receiving their endorsements will be key.


With the assistance of the Durand Lawyers legal team, Earth Day Canada has entered numerous public and private sector agreements, including with Sobeys Capital Inc. and their merchant network. For many years, Earth Day Canada has been able to use their trademark portfolio to vouch for the environmental soundness of Sobeys’ initiatives and boost the food retailer’s position as an eco-conscious actor and employer, as well as giving them a competitive advantage in a rapidly greening market.


Thanks to the proven strength of their partnership and in no small part to the environmental integrity conveyed by both their trademarks, Natural Resources Canada awarded Earth Day Canada a major grant of $5 million to install level 3 DC fast charging stations at IGA stores across Quebec and New Brunswick. This action will serve to further entrench Earth Day Canada as a major contributor to the electrification of the transportation sector while its partners, including Sobey’s, will continue to be recognized as leading businesses in sustainability.


As the popularity of EVs continues to rise and investments in GreenTech continue to flood the marketplace, a reliable trademark portfolio will become an invaluable tool for players in the sector to leverage as they seek out funding and advantageous partnerships.


About Durand Lawyers


Proud partner of Earth Day Canada, Durand Lawyers brings Law & Business Together. In addition to being on the board of FORPIQ, we are a law and business advisory firm specialized in intellectual property, business strategy, as well as civil and corporate law. We are uniquely positioned to help clients in emerging technology industries such as environment, SaaS, AI, and FinTech, employing both lawyers and experienced entrepreneurs to get the best possible outcomes. For more information visit our website at www.durand-lex.com.

About Earth Day Canada

For 25 years, Earth Day Canada has celebrated Earth Day with a wide array of awareness-raising activities on environmental issues. With its ability to mobilize local stakeholders, Earth Day Canada has developed numerous initiatives for April 22nd and every day. EDC aims to use Earth Day, April 22nd, as a catalyst for rallying engaged citizens and supporting organizations and municipalities trying to reduce their impact on the environment, all across Canada.

[1] U.S. Department of Energy, Timeline: History of the Electric Car, available at: https://www.energy.gov/timeline/timeline-history-electric-car.

[2] https://www.energy.gov/articles/history-electric-car.

[3] Who Killed the Electric Car?. Dir. Chris Paine. Sony Pictures Classics, 2006. Documentary Film.

[4] https://www.investopedia.com/terms/g/green_tech.asp.

[5] Canada’s Clean Growth Hub, available at : https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/099.nsf/eng/home, in which the Government of Canada announced in 2017 “more than $2.3 billion to support clean technology in Canada and the growth of Canadian firms and exports”.

[6] BloombergNEF – Electric Vehicle Outlook 2020, available at : https://about.bnef.com/electric-vehicle-outlook/ (released June 2020).

[7] https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy-efficiency/energy-efficiency-transportation/zero-emission-vehicle-infrastructure-program/21876

[8] https://electricautonomy.ca/2020/06/25/transdev-lion-electric-school-bus-deal/

[9] https://vehiculeselectriques.gouv.qc.ca/english/rabais/ve-neuf/programme-rabais-vehicule-neuf.asp

[10] https://www.quebec.ca/en/government/policies-orientations/plan-green-economy/

[11]file:///Users/jtq24/Downloads/Mississauga_Climate_Change_Action_Plan_FINAL_Approved%20(1).pdf

[12] https://www.victoria.ca/assets/Departments/Sustainability/CoV-ClimateLeadershipPlan.pdf

[13] https://www.toronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/92f8-TransformTO-Climate-Action-for-a-Healthy-Equitable-Prosperous-Toronto-Implementation-Update-2017-and-2018.pdf [14] CBC - Federal intellectual property strategy includes $30M to help green tech sector, available at: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/green-tech-30-million-navdeep-bains-1.5233499 (last updated on August 1st, 2019).

[15] https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/elon-musk-tesla-trademark-faraday-a9229746.html

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