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Tuesday, 25 June, 2002, 07:28 GMT 08:28 UK
ExxonMobil sues over logo 'abuse'
Stop E$$O website
ExxonMobil says it is attacking abuse, not free speech
In an unprecedented tactical shift, oil giant ExxonMobil is to sue pressure group Greenpeace over misuse of its corporate logo.

Esso France is taking legal action against Greenpeace's French arm, arguing that the so-called "Stop E$$O" campaign is illegal and harmful to the reputation of Exxon's Esso brand name.

The Stop E$$O campaign aims to depict the oil firm as unscrupulous and greedy, particularly with regard to environmental rules.

But ExxonMobil argues that the manipulation of its logo makes it resemble the symbol of the Nazi SS, which is at best confusing to the public.

ExxonMobil's legal challenge represents a change of tack for big corporations, which have so far either ignored protesters, or attempted to challenge them on ideological grounds.

No compromise

Aside from demanding an end to the campaign in its present form, Esso France is claiming 80,000 euros (52,000; $78,000) in daily compensation.

SS insignia
SS insignia: Esso says its logo is being distorted to appear similar

The firm is applying for an injunction in Paris next Monday, where a preliminary judgement is expected.

In response, Greenpeace has labelled the challenge "bully-boy antics".

"We find it ironic that the richest corporation in the world can't recognise the dollar sign and confuses it with a Nazi symbol," said Stephan Tindale, director of Greenpeace UK.

"In the meantime we're delighted Esso has finally admitted that our campaign is having an effect."

Loggerheads over logos

The Stop E$$O campaign is a coalition of Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and People & Planet.

Oil well
The oil giant is accused of hindering green policies
It has been running in France since May, with equivalent protests in the UK, US, Canada and Germany.

This year, Greenpeace has attempted to mobilise a consumer boycott of Esso fuels, arguing that ExxonMobil helped torpedo the Kyoto agreement on climate change.

ExxonMobil, meanwhile, denies that it is attempting to stifle free speech.

"The law forbids the distortion or misrepresentation of a trademark. Greenpeace is not above the law," said an Esso France spokesman.

"We have just asked them to take the logo off their site.

"We're not trying to keep them from expressing themselves."


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