4 Animals Living In A House Together With No Patents Charities and Trademarks – Names and Brands

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Charities and Trademarks – Names and Brands

Whether a charity is a household name or an innovative start-up, like any ordinary business, it will need to think about its brand.

If the charity is to be launched, a trademark search is desirable. When starting new ventures, there is so much to do and think about that sometimes the release of the name is overlooked. As a result, some unlucky people receive a ‘cease and desist’ letter asking them to stop using their name. So they have to start over with a whole new identity, new website, new business cards, new marketing materials, etc.

Name clearance involves a trademark search to check if any existing identical or similar and conflicting marks are already registered. Charities may also want to watch out for similar brand names with associations that are at odds with the charity’s aims. For example, if there is an existing registration in a similar name from a tobacco company, then the charity may want to reconsider whether to use the name for its cancer hospice.

Given the potential risks, it makes sense to do a trademark search before committing to a new name. Charities cannot afford costly legal proceedings or rebranding if trademark law is neglected. Ensuring they take steps to protect the brand at an early stage is a smart move for the brand’s long-term safety and success. So the key for any charity is to manage brand protection at an early stage to avoid costly expenses later on.

What is recorded? Taking a short cut in marketing by adopting a descriptive name carries the risk of the name being off-brand. Only distinctive brand names can be trademarked. So in choosing names a balance needs to be found between those that reflect what the charity does and those that are unique.

One of the main reasons organizations move to using acronyms like WWF instead of the full name – World Wildlife Fund – is to be able to brand what would otherwise be a very descriptive name. However, as trademark registries become increasingly cluttered, many shortcuts will already be taken and more difficult solutions may have to be found to overcome the problem of the overly descriptive charity name.

Charities that start with a distinctive name will have the distinctiveness that is the hallmark of a memorable brand name. It is good practice to register the name as a trade mark early in the life of the charity as it is much easier at that stage to make adjustments to the name if necessary before a charity is firmly established with a particular identity.

Territorial nature of trademarks. Trademarks are protected in the area where the charity registers its trademark. Initially, resources may not extend to more than one local country trademark, but in due course when the charity is established, registrations in other countries in which it is active should be afforded.

Those charities with strong associations and operations in less economically developed countries – where reliance on the brand will be particularly strong – will find it more expensive to protect them because they may not be party to the Madrid system, which makes it very cost effective to file. for protection in a number of countries worldwide under a single application based on a national application.

Brands matter Although a charity operates to fulfill a social need rather than generate a profit for its owners, brand protection is just as important for non-profit organisations. The brand will communicate the charity’s message, promote its services in the market and, of course, help raise funds. Trademarks are the tool par excellence of trademark protection, as there is no copyright in a mere name.

As people identify the brand with the charitable cause, the goodwill generated becomes a valuable way to promote the cause. Charity brands are particularly vulnerable to unscrupulous third parties who may try to take advantage of the brand’s social purpose, special meaning and credibility, and the trust the public places in it. So registering a trademark is the most cost-effective defense for enforcing charity rights.

While names may not be a top priority for startups, their importance to organizations is evident from the wild disputes that sometimes rage over brands. For example, for years there were legal battles between the World Wildlife Fund and the World Wrestling Federation over the WWF mark. The two organizations reached an agreement in 1992, and yet ten years later the Fund sued for breach of that agreement. The two then had a dispute over domain names – particularly for WWF.com – and spent much of the 1990s opposing each other’s trademark applications at various national intellectual property offices around the world.

Ultimately, the long-term reward for a charity that takes a proactive approach at an early stage is the creation of a strong framework for protecting and growing its charitable objectives.

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