Your ice bucket challenge could soon be illegal

The old questions ask ‘if a tree falls in the woods and there in nobody to hear it, does it still make a sound?’ The same can be said for the thousands of viral ice bucket challenges that have been going on around the world – and taking every social media platform by storm.

If a challenge happens and nobody films it or puts it on social media for the world to see, did it really happen? Well, if the ALS Society gets its way, it might soon be illegal to use the phrase ‘ice bucket challenge’ for any other fundraising campaigns.

In case you have no idea what we’re talking about, an ice bucket challenge is where people chuck a bucket of ice on themselves, nominate three others to do the same and then donate money to the ALS Society. The challenges have been so successful that almost $100 million has been donated since July – compared to $2.9 million for the same time last year.

But the ALS Society now completely wants to own the ice bucket challenge, including the wording ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ and ‘ALS Ice Bucket Challenge’ and the fundraising aspect of it, in a trademark filing to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

In essence what it means is that nobody else can use a similar ice bucket challenge or the concept to raise funds for themselves – other than for the ALS Society. The two trademark filings can be found here and here.

Trademark lawyer Erik Pelton was the first to spot the filing, and he thinks it’s a really bad idea:

“An effort to register the ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE strikes me as a bit akin to those who sought register BOSTON STRONG after the marathon bombings in 2013. Even if it were permissible under the law to register the phrase (again that is not clear here), it is in poor taste. If others want to use the phrase to raise money for their causes, why would ALS Association want to stop them?” he wrote on his website.

//Update – ALSA has now withdrawn its application to trademark the ice bucket challenge. Hurrah!

[Source – USPTO, image – CC by 2.0/Knox County Government]


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