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GOTS Wins Case in Textile Printing Infringement

In a case that the Global Organic Textile Standard Organization (GOTS) said has far-reaching consequences for any advertising using the GOTS logo or name, the Higher Regional Court in Stuttgart, Germany ruled that a textile printer infringed on its trademark.

The decision was made after a textile printer had purchased blank GOTS certified T-shirts and then printed on them. The printer, however, was not GOTS certified. Because GOTS is a stringent voluntary global standard for the post-harvest processing—including spinning, knitting, weaving, dyeing and manufacturing—for apparel and home textiles made with certified organic cotton or wool fiber, and includes environmental and social criteria, it’s critical that each step in the supply chain be accordingly certified.

According to the GOTS standard criteria, each processing step must be certified to exclude toxic or carcinogenic substances, among other criteria. The printed T-shirt was advertised as a GOTS certified end-product, so the Global Standard non-profit GmbH, the standard setter for GOTS, took legal action.

The court explicitly made note that the GOTS trademark is regarded as a Quality Mark, the organization said, and consumers should be able to rely on strict compliance when it comes to the GOTS standard.

Printing on fabric or apparel could add the risk that a product would no longer comply with the requirements of GOTS. The reputation of GOTS could then be weakened or otherwise damaged by further non-certified processing, “which would constitute an infringing activity,” GOTS said.

“This judgement is groundbreaking,” Claudia Kersten, GOTS managing director, said. “The judges acknowledge the quality promise of a GOTS product to be certified throughout the entire supply chain. This protects consumers and also the companies that act correctly by getting certified.”

Key provisions of GOTS certification include a ban on the use of genetically modified organisms, highly hazardous chemicals and child labor, while requiring strong social compliance management systems and strict wastewater treatment practices. The number of manufacturing and processing facilities certified by GOTS increased 14.6 percent in 2018 to 5,760 facilities employing more than 2 million workers, the organization reported in its year-end review.