US Patent Office Fast-Tracks Controversial CBS EcoAds

CBS’s controversial EcoAd program has been granted special status by the US Patent and Trademark Office.

The special status is a part of its Green Technology Pilot Program, which expedites processing of patent applications related to green technology.

"The fast-tracking of the patent application for our EcoAd program is an explicit confirmation that innovative media programs like ours benefit the environment/society just as substantially – and perhaps even more so – than any inventions created in a lab or factory," explains Paul Polizzotto, Founder and President of EcoMedia, which was acquired by CBS in 2010.

When an advertiser purchases an EcoAd package, a portion of the revenue goes toward funding environmental and clean energy projects. Since launching earlier this year, EcoAd advertising packages have been available across CBS platforms, including network, local television, radio, outdoor, and online.

The EcoAd program has been heavily criticized as greenwashing by watchdog groups, who say the ads give the incorrect impression that advertisers and their operations are green, when in actuality they only contribute funds for green projects.

The Center for Environmental Health, Rainforest Action Network and Friends of the Earth sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in April requesting that it investigate the EcoAd program. The FTC is in the process of developing new guidelines for green marketing.

"EcoAd is not a certification program, nor is the EcoAd logo a seal of approval," says the company. "EcoMedia does not in any way certify, endorse or make any representations about EcoAd advertisers, their products or services."

EcoMedia says its premise is that the billions of advertising dollars spent annually represent a tremendous reservoir of untapped resources that could be directed toward bricks-and-mortar projects benefiting local communities.

"Because our EcoAd program is something truly new in advertising, we’re going to great lengths to educate folks about what the EcoAd program is – and what it isn’t," says Polizzotto. "It’s important for folks to know that what’s ‘green’ about our EcoAd program is the distribution of the advertising itself."

Robert Kennedy, Jr., Founder and President of the Waterkeeper Alliance and Senior Counsel to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), supports the program.

"The EcoAd program has been one of the best ideas I have encountered to safeguard our natural resources so I’m pleased to hear it’s being fast tracked through the patent process," Kennedy says. "Through the EcoAd program, cities get much needed funds, communities get cleaner water, air and green spaces, and corporations can put their resources to work for the betterment of society."

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