Charities and Non-Profits Need Trademark Protection, Too.
Federal trademark protection is available for business names, logos designs, advertising slogans, and other "marks" that identify the source of goods or services marketed in interstate commerce.
That is, whether you are an individual person or a business entity, if you sell something across state lines that is identified by a product name or logo (or even a sound or smell), you can register it with the Federal US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) so that anyone selling a similar product or service under the same (or a way too close!) identifying mark can be sued for infringement.
The purpose of Trademark registration is to protect your business' reputation yes, but, more importantly, to protect consumers' right to understand what they are buying and from whom--or what.
These purposes are no less important for a charitable or non-profit organization than they are for a profit-driven enterprise.
Trademark Registration: What Is a Charity or Non-Profit "Selling?"
It is not a requirement that a Federal trademark applicant be selling a product or service in exchange for money.
Prior to 2002, the USPTO provided a separate class into which charitable services provided other than for money were designated upon application. (All trademark applications must designate a "class" for the goods or services in question.)
Since 2002, this is not longer the case. Instead, a charity or non-profit applying for Federal trademark registration must designate an International Class (IC) appropriate to the specific good or service being provided regardless of the fact that it may not be being provided in exchange for money.
Thus, if your charity or non-profit makes quilts that it distributes to the homeless, for example, the application woudl be filed with IC 24 ("Fabrics").
Detroit Michigan Trademark Attorney: Trademark Registration for Charities & Non-Profies - The Bottom Line
The bottom line with regard to trademark registration for charities and non-profits is that charitable organizations need to take the necessary precaution not only to protect their intellectual property and good will but also to protect those would would donate to their causes.
It is crucial to retain a knowledgeable attorney to assist you with your application. A licensed attorney will provide you a measure of comfort in knowing that details such as these will be properly handled and will not upend your chances of a successful registration.
The Hilla Law Firm is located in the Detroit area but represents clients nationally for trademark matters and offers free video or telephonic consultations.
If you are interested in discussing the filing of an initial trademark application or defending an office action already filed, please contact us to discuss your matter or click here to directly schedule your initial trademark consultation into our calendaring system.