Nonprofit group not feeling so charitable over sharing trademarks

By Joseph Mandour on October 8, 2011

ribbon_pink-thumb-200x361-30052 San Diego, CA – It’s no secret that nonprofit organizations compete for donation dollars. So when Americans tighten their belts during economic downturns and give less to charity, the competition between these nonprofits can be fierce.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure spends close to one million of its donated dollars every year to protect its trademarks by policing the Internet for other charities and events that use any variation of “for the cure” in its name. Thus far, the charity which has managed to raise millions of dollars for breast cancer research, has filed trademark oppositions against many small organizations that lack the funds for legal representation. Some of these nonprofits include Surfing for a Cure and Cupcakes for a Cure, both of which raise money for cancer research.

Many have criticized the money and efforts Komen has spent opposing other charities, often times calling the group a bully. Those who have denounced the charity, think that its aggressiveness will not only damage smaller charities, but will be counterproductive to its own.

Despite the criticism, attorneys for Komen claim that they have a legal duty to the charity to protect its more than 200 trademarks, however they try to be plausible when dealing with the small nonprofits. A Komen attorney stated, “It’s never our goal to shut down a nonprofit and we try very hard to be reasonable, but it’s still our obligation to make sure that our trademarks are used appropriately so there’s no confusion in the marketplace over where people’s money is going.”

When “for the cure” is used by other charities, a likelihood of confusion exists along with the threat of a donor thinking he is giving money to one charity, but in reality giving to another. Another problem that exists is when fraudulent charities pop up on the Internet, soliciting donations from people.

Although we understand the efforts to police the trademark, we wonder if $1,000,000 a year and 200 trademarks are really necessary.

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