Trademark registration of Ice Bucket Challenge

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Last week the protagonist on social media has been, no doubt, the campaign called “Ice bucket challenge”: the viral iced shower campaign created for charity with the intention to raise fund for research and fight against the degenerative neurological disease ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis).

The Ice Bucket Challenge is an idea of Pete Frates, promise of baseball and ALS sufferer; the American Association (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association) developed the idea and turn it into a viral social campaign which has raised in the US over $60 million from the donation of people who has poured a bucket of iced water over their heads.

Now it seems that part of this money will possibly be used by the association for the trademark registration of “Ice bucket challenge” phrase.

According to the USPTO database, the ALS association applied last August to register both “Ice Bucket Challenge” 86375292 and “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” 86375305 as trademarks; in the application, it is specified that the use of such trademark will be for charitable fundraising.

However, the choice has sparked several criticism. In fact, if the USPTO decide to grant the trademark to the association (which, by the way, is not the real creator of the phrase) the result shall be to prevent other charities from raising money by using the Ice Bucket Challenge so it seems “unfair” to associate exclusively ASLA to the fund raising.

It will be up to the lawyers and legal experts to discuss the validity of this request and the USPTO to make a decision, expected in about two months. We will certainly monitor the situation; in the meanwhile, it is only possible to judge the intent and especially the potential significance of this intent with respect to the extraordinary virality to which the world has witnessed and participated.

I would like to conclude by adding the pleasant video of one of the most famous personality who recently has joined the cause and accepted the challenge: Bill Gates.

P.S: The same day the article was written, the ALS has withdrawn the US trademark application, posting to Facebook the following message explianing the decision: “We’ve received several messages regarding the trademark applications we filed. We filed for these trademarks in good faith as a measure to protect the Ice Bucket Challenge from misuse after consulting with the families who initiated the challenge this summer. However, we understand the public’s concern and are withdrawing the trademark applications. We appreciate the generosity and enthusiasm of everyone who has taken the challenge and donated to ALS charities”.

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