Gustavo Frazao /
29 August 2014Trademarks

ALSA wants two ‘ice bucket challenge’ trademarks

The ALS Association (ALSA) has filed two US trademarks to protect the ‘ice bucket challenge’, a sensation that has gripped the world and raised millions for charity.

The applications, both citing “charitable fundraising” as their goods and services, are for ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ and ‘ALS Ice Bucket Challenge’.

They were filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on August 22 and have dated their first use as August 4.

In the past few weeks the challenge, where someone pours a bucket of ice-cold water over their head and is encouraged to donate money to ALSA or an equivalent neurodegenerative disorder charity, has gone viral.

Numerous celebrities and even former US President George W. Bush have posted videos online of them completing the challenge.

As of August 27, the ALSA said it has received $94.3 million in donations, while the UK-based Motor Neurone Disease Association has raised £3 million ($4.98 million) with the help of ice bucket donations.

But there are doubts about the ALSA’s trademark claims to the phenomenon. Writing on his blog, Erik Pelton, of law firm Erik M Pelton & Associates PLLC, said it’s not clear that the association owns the phrase. Nor is it exclusively associated with fundraising for the ALSA, he claimed.

“The phrase may already be generic. It is widely used, by many, in ways that don’t only relate to the ALS Association,” he added.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

The USPTO said it expects to assign the applications to an examining attorney roughly three months after their filing date.

Meanwhile, the ALSA’s president Barbara Newhouse said the large amount of money it has received brings tremendous responsibility.

“We are absolutely committed to transparency and will be communicating regularly with the ALS community, our donors, the media and the public about progress to invest these dollars wisely in areas that will have maximum impact on the fight against this devastating disease.”

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More on this story

1 September 2014   Two US trademark applications for the ‘ice bucket challenge’ have been withdrawn, the ALS Association has confirmed.