Chief Science Correspondent
A few months ago, while traveling through the Columbus, Ohio airport, I caught a glimpse of a traveler's jacket with a circular patch that bore a familiar red, white and blue design.
Excited to have potentially spotted a fellow participant in the US Antarctic Program, I moved faster to catch up to the woman. But as I looked more closely, I realized that she wasn't wearing the USAP logo after all. While the design was similar, the logo was centered around the Arctic Circle in lieu of the Antarctic continent.
After asking about the patch, I was informed that Canada Goose is a winter coat company. A quick Google search revealed that CG is actually a major high-end apparel company. Who knew? (In my defense, The North Face seems to hold a monopoly over every town in which I've lived).
Canada Goose was founded in 1957; however, the company has undergone numerous changes over the past six decades, including the introduction of the current logo in the 1980s - around the same time that the company began supplying parkas to the USAP. I was unable to trace the history of the USAP logo; however, vintage photographs demonstrate that it has existed since at least 1969.
So why does this matter? Who cares if the CG logo is an imitation of another design? I showed the logos to Steven (the creator of Cennamology, who is much more knowledgeable about trademark laws than I am). He informed me that USAP wouldn't be able to form a strong case against CG, as the two organizations do not compete for customers.
I then contacted the USAP, requesting information on the history of the logos. I was curious if the logo had been designed with the USAP's endorsement. I was informed that the USAP has never contested the CG logo, but was given no further information.
The CG logo might be perfectly legal, but it's a bit ironic that this brand (with a logo that is essentially a knockoff of a government research organization) is so protective of the patch. The company has previously filed lawsuits against companies such as Sears and International Clothiers, claiming that the jackets were intentionally designed to mimic CG. I was unable to find an image of the Sears jacket in question, but did manage to find the IC patch. Both patches may be circular, but the resemblance is nothing like that of the USAP/CG patches.
In 2014, Sears stated that "Canada Goose is trying to claim the exclusive right to sell any winter coat with a fur collar 'of any sort; or with a circular logo on its sleeve," according to The Globe and Mail. Hmm. A fur-trim coat and patch like this, perhaps?
Canada Goose appears desperate to protect the ownership of a design that never really belonged to the company to begin with. But this is a company that has managed to sell $700 jackets to college students. The Canada Goose patch has clear monetary value. True, their coats are high quality on their own, but people pay for these ridiculously expensive coats because the circular patch has come to be associated with a high quality product.
About a year ago, Boston University graphic design student Cody Lewis came up with an idea to highlight the value of the CG patch, noting that he was seeing them "more and more" on campus. In an interview, Lewis said he had first planned to design a patch to wear on his own jacket, but a minimum order requirement inspired him to launch a Kickstarter campaign for the project.
Lewis designed a parody patch that bore the title: "America Duck Winter Program." The patches were distributed to backers who contributed an small donation. Lewis, who said he was initially unaware of the USAP logo, noted that his parody ultimately resembled the original more closely. His design features a star border, which he said was designed to parody the Canadian-style leaves. Additionally, Lewis switched out the color scheme of the CG patch, with the land represented by white, similar to the USAP design.
Lewis said he was contacted three days after the patches were distributed with a cease and desist from CG. However, Lewis said the company, which flew him and his brother to the company's headquarters for a visit, was "surprisingly supportive" of his project.
"They thought it was funny," Lewis said. "But (the duck patch) dilutes their intellectual property and it wasn't good for their brand. I understand that."