In terms of human behavior, the concepts of honesty and ethics aren’t usually at odds with each other. Once you get the lawyers involved, though, all bets are off.
Two New Zealand coffee companies with brands bearing the names Honest and Ethical have been embroiled in a legal disagreement in which questions of morals and ethics have little bearing. It all comes down to the letter of the law, in this case regarding trademark usage.
Honest Coffee Company Limited filed with NZ’s International Property Office an application for revocation of a trademark held by Ethical Coffee Limited (the “limited” behind each company name only adds to the fun here). Ethical Coffee is a brand of Aukland-based Karajoz Coffee Company, while Honest Coffee is an Aukland-based distributor of the Ethical Coffee capsule brand.
You see, that’s two different “Ethical Coffees” locking horns, which of course is a confounding philosophical proposition. The NZIPO, however, found the case to be quite clear, siding with Honest Coffee’s assertion that the Ethical Coffee trademark in question was not used by the trademark holder in relation to relevant goods within the relevant period of three years.
In other words, as the office so cheekily put it, there were sufficient “grounds” for trademark revocation.