Update: The application has been withdrawn, ALSA said Friday.
The Ice Bucket Challenge has raised almost 100 million dollars for the ALS Association of America. The non-profit did not create the viral campaign, but that didn't stop it from filing for control of the use of that phrase with the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Attorney Eric Pelton spotted the filing:
The ALS Association alleges that it owns rights to the phrase “Ice Bucket Challenge” in connection with charitable fundraising. Two trademark applications were filed by the association with the USPTO last Friday for ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE (Serial No. 86375292) and for ALS ICE BUCKET (Serial No. 86375305) CHALLENGE for use in connection with charitable fundraising services. The association claims that its first use of the phrases in commerce was August 4, 2014.
I don’t think this claim by the ALS Association is appropriate for several reasons:
• Is ALS Association the true owner of the phrase? I don’t believe that the Association created it or was the first to use it. Not sure they can claim real ownership.
• Is the phrase “ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE” associated exclusively with fundraising for the ALS Association? I don’t think so.
• The phrase may already be generic. It is widely used, by many, in ways that don’t only related to the ALS Association.
• Is the phrase likely to be viewed by the public as indicating the source of the charitable fundraising services? Again, since many others have taken the challenge in the name of (and/or contributed to) other charities, I’m not sure that they will.
• If ALS Association successfully registers the phrase, it could seek to restrict use of it for other charitable causes. That would be the biggest shame in all of this.
This feels like what Komen did with "For the Cure" and breast cancer. I hope ALSA uses the funds they've received from the campaign in a more responsible way than Komen did with the many millions they raked in over pink ribbons. And I hope they'll change their approach on this issue. There are more crowd-friendly ways to reduce the harm of fraudsters who want to cash in on the ALS campaign's high profile.
Below, ALSA's comments today on the trademark issue.
@map408psu - 1/3 - The ALS Association took steps to trademark Ice Bucket Challenge after securing the blessings of the families who— The ALS Association (@alsassociation) August 28, 2014
@map408psu - 2/3 - initiated the challenge this summer. We did this as a good faith effort after hearing that for-profit businesses were— The ALS Association (@alsassociation) August 28, 2014
@map408psu - 3/3 - creating confusion by marketing ALS products in order to capitalize on this grassroots charitable effort.— The ALS Association (@alsassociation) August 28, 2014