Trademarking Good

T-POST® #63

What do bubble gum, baby girls, cotton candy and breast cancer all have in common? The color pink.
  • T-Post t-shirt issue 63
  • T-Post t-shirt issue 63
  • T-Post t-shirt issue 63
  • T-Post t-shirt issue 63

And no other breast cancer brand is more synonymous with the color pink than Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the most widely known, largest and best-funded breast cancer organization in the U.S.

Since its inception in 1982, Komen has invested nearly $2 billion for breast cancer research, education, advocacy, health services and social support programs in the U.S., and through partnerships in more than 50 countries. Today, Komen has more than 100,000 volunteers working in a network of 124 affiliates worldwide. Yeah, they’re big.

Most recently, however, the do-good organization has been criticized for their lesser-known mission of rather aggressively identifying and filing legal trademark oppositions against other charities and events that use any variation of “for the cure” in their names, including various Mom and Pop charities like Fans for the Cure, Surfing for a Cure, Critters for the Cure, and Cupcakes for a Cure.

According to The Huffington Post, these small, under-funded organizations are being contacted by Komen to cease their use of pink and the phrase “for the cure”, stating they own them. Oh boy.

Now everyone has their knickers in a bunch because they believe that the money and time spent on legally defending each other’s brands should go to the actual cure of breast cancer. They also believe that many of these charities in question are all working towards “the cure” so what's the harm in using the same colors or phrase if all efforts are going towards the greater good?

  • T-Post t-shirt issue 63
  • T-Post t-shirt issue 63
  • T-Post t-shirt issue 63
  • T-Post t-shirt issue 63

We own the phrase “for the cure” and the color pink, filing legal trademark oppositions against all charities use it.

It's a question of trademark infringement. Or, as others might say, trademark abuse.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure is a business, which many people fail to realize. And businesses, even nonprofits, have overhead and other operational costs, including legal and marketing, that don’t go directly to funding the cure. Shouldn’t they have the right to protect their brand in order to continue all the good they are doing at the scale they are doing it?

With so many unauthorized organizations using Komen’s brand of good, it's affecting the global organization Komen worked so hard to build. Could it be affecting the cause, as well?

Fundraising is not easy by any means, especially when there are so many causes and only a limited amount of funds people are willing to donate. If someone sees the color pink or the phrase “for the cure” do they think that they these organizations are affiliated with Komen or, for that matter, breast cancer?

Is it best that these donations go to Komen who probably have done the research to know where the funds are best spent, or should a local school be able to get in on the action with their own pink fundraiser for the cure. What if the fundraiser is for the cure of lung cancer or something as ridiculous as boredom? Where do we draw the line?

Would other businesses, say Nike, get the same heat for going after businesses using their tagline or name brand? Or is it just because Komen is a charity and people see charitable organizations differently?

Be good™.

Words: Chad Rea
Design: Karolina Pyrcik

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