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Thread: ALSA files to trademark "ice bucket challenge"

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    ALSA files to trademark "ice bucket challenge"

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    ALS group moves to trademark

    Unless you've been living in a sensory-deprivation chamber for the past few weeks, you've heard of the "ice bucket challenge" being shown off on all types of social media. People get buckets of ice water dumped on them in order to encourage donations to the ALS Association, the foundation that supports research and care for those living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a muscle disease that's also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

    It's impossible to know exactly what makes something like the ice bucket challenge go viral. Whatever the case may be, the sensation been an incredible benefit for the ALS Association. Yesterday, the group said it has raised $94.3 million since July 29, compared to just $2.7 million during the same time period last year. That's nearly 35 times as much money.

    It's great news for a worthy charity, but the cause has led to an unfortunate legal move. The ALS Association has filed an application with the US Patent and Trademark Office seeking to trademark the term "ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE" for use in charitable fundraising. If successful, that would allow the ALS Association to stop other charities from using the phrase for their own fundraising.

    The application was filed on Friday and spotted yesterday by trademark lawyer Erik Pelton.

    "An effort to register the ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE strikes me as a bit akin to those who sought to register BOSTON STRONG after the marathon bombings in 2013," wrote Pelton. "Even if it were permissible under the law to register the phrase (again that is not clear here), it is in poor taste."

    "[ALS Association] had little to nothing to do with anything related to the challenge, other than getting a bunch of checks in the month of August," wrote Mike Masnick at Techdirt. "To now claim a trademark over it seems... kind of disgusting."

    Pelton notes that the phrase may be generic in the first place. And since ALS didn't invent the phrase nor this fundraising idea, its application might have legal problems as well as ethical ones.

    The "ice bucket challenge" blew up in late July when Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball player, convinced some prominent people, including pro athletes, to take the challenge. While Frates is often credited with "creating" the challenge, it was around well before that.

    As it happens, Slate reporter Josh Levin did a fair bit of research about who invented the "ice bucket challenge," publishing his story on August 22—the same day the ALS Association filed its trademark applications. Pro golfers started to shower themselves with ice water for various causes in June of this year. On July 14, a minor-league golfer managed to focus the attention on ALS. From there, Levin followed the challenge a few more steps to Frates.

    But without much trouble, Levin was able to find examples of regular people doing the ice bucket challenge—whether for fundraising or for laughs—before high-profile athletes made it go viral. The earliest use of the #icebucketchallenge hashtag on Instagram for this type of water-dumpage was by a user named standupguy06, who posted a video of himself doing the challenge on May 29:

    In any case, there's a long history of humans challenging themselves with cold water endurance in various ways. "The 'cold water challenge' and the '24-hour ice challenge,' both of which traveled widely across social media earlier this year, were variants on the classic polar bear plunge," writes Levin in his exhaustive look into the viral video.

    Despite all of that history, the ALS trademark applications make the claim that the first use of "ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE" was on August 4.
    The article is pretty much an editorial so it's not unbiased, but what do you guys think of this?

    I don't really have a problem with it from a moral perspective, but it does seem like a pretty big waste of time/resources to me, especially for a charitable organization. Trademarking the term and preventing other charities from using it doesn't seem to me like it's going to make them any more money or raise them any more awareness.

    But I also feel like it isn't going to turn that many people off to their charity either (plus the challenge isn't specifically to donate to them anyway) ... I can get why it leaves a bad taste in people's mouths though.
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    #2
    Yeah, that leaves a bad taste in my mouth for a variety of reasons.
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    #3
    It's great news for a worthy charity, but the cause has led to an unfortunate legal move. The ALS Association has filed an application with the US Patent and Trademark Office seeking to trademark the term "ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE" for use in charitable fundraising. If successful, that would allow the ALS Association to stop other charities from using the phrase for their own fundraising.
    I agree with the article about it being in poor taste. The point is to raise money for charity. If the ice bucket challenge could be used to help other causes then isn't that a good thing? It's like they're saying, "We came up with the Ice Bucket Challenge so all you other charities gotta come up with your own way to make money!" IMO the whole idea of trademarking it sounds a tad selfish and ridiculous.
    Last edited by idratherbehiking; 08-28-2014 at 10:57 PM. Reason: addtl info




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    I'm not sure I get the point. The Ice Bucket Challenge is usually done by individuals or groups, not other charitable organizations. It seems misplaced and a waste of money. People can do the Ice Bucket Challenge for whatever they want, I'm not sure how a trademark would stop that.
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    I feel like its unnecessary and in poor taste. They didnt actually come up with the campaign. Why should they get the "credit"? Plus, trademarking it would give them the power to deny the opportunity to other charities? Just no.... And if they feel like the best way to use the extra funds they have raised (obviously not nearly all of them but still) is to trademark something that IMO they really dont have the right to trademark, then I am glad I denied the challenge and didnt donate. That money should be going towards the cause.
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    I think it's complete and utter bullshit.

    The husband and I did a variation of the ice bucket challenge but we didn't donate to ALSA. We donated to ALS TDI because we were inspired to do so by Anthony Carbajal's ice bucket challenge video.

    This just reeks to me.
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    #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Katarina View Post
    I feel like its unnecessary and in poor taste. They didnt actually come up with the campaign. Why should they get the "credit"? Plus, trademarking it would give them the power to deny the opportunity to other charities? Just no.... And if they feel like the best way to use the extra funds they have raised (obviously not nearly all of them but still) is to trademark something that IMO they really dont have the right to trademark, then I am glad I denied the challenge and didnt donate. That money should be going towards the cause.
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    I think the ice bucket challenge belongs to social media, not any particular organization or charity.

    I have no idea why this has me so disgusted. I just...uhg.
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    #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Lynn View Post
    I think the ice bucket challenge belongs to social media, not any particular organization or charity.

    I have no idea why this has me so disgusted. I just...uhg.
    That's pretty much how I feel. I think there is something beautiful in how things go viral, it seems so random and organic ... when people try to take advantage of that and break out the lawyers and the greed it feels like that something beautiful is gone.

    Plus the fact that they didn't come up with it, as well as me having trouble seeing how this will help anyone with ALS ... like you say, ugh.
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    #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Lynn View Post
    I think the ice bucket challenge belongs to social media, not any particular organization or charity.

    I have no idea why this has me so disgusted. I just...uhg.


    I'm REALLY glad I didn't participate/donate if this becomes the case because that's just crap. Trademarking a way to raise donations is just yuck. It just seems like such a cheap and greedy move on their part. And I agree, this doesn't help anyone with ALS, if the foundation is using money raised from donations as well to trademark something rather than putting it towards research.... That just seems so wrong.


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