Trademark Disputes Hit Local Nonprofits

Local nonprofits are reportedly facing backlash from other organizations that say people could be confused about the similarities in their names.

Last year, Minneapolis-based nonprofit Project Legos, Inc., was forced to change its name to Project Footsteps, Inc., after a trademark infringement lawsuit was brought against it by The Lego Group, the Danish maker of Lego toys.

Project Footsteps isn't the only local nonprofit that is facing backlash over branding trademark issues as the growing presence of nonprofits on the Internet has increased competition for attracting donors, according to the Star Tribune.

“It used to be that there were local groups with the same name, but they didn't know about each other,” Jon Pratt, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, told the Star Tribune. “Now it's a lot easier to research. And as online donations become more important, you want a single identity online.”

National organization Susan G. Komen for the Cure has reportedly asked several groups across the country to stop using the phrases “for the cure” or “for a cure,” including “Mush for a Cure”-a sled-dog race in northern Minnesota that raises money to fight breast cancer.

“It was like, 'You've got to be kidding,'” Sue Prom, who helped organize the Mush for a Cure fundraiser, told the Star Tribune. “People are donating money to this organization [Komen] to fight cancer-not to fight another organization fighting breast cancer.”

Admission Possible, a St. Paul-based nonprofit that helps prepare low-income students for college, is another local organization dealing with trademark issues.

According to the Star Tribune, the organization was given permission to use its name in Minnesota and surrounding states a decade ago by a for-profit California company that does similar work and shares the same name. But when the Minnesota group decided to expand nationally, it was denied permission to operate under the name Admission Possible and now has plans to change its name by September.

“It's disappointing,” Admission Possible spokeswoman Emily Jacobs told the Star Tribune. “When you lose your name, you lose the brand equity and recognition that goes with it to key audiences-students, donors, community supporters.”

Click here to read more in the Star Tribune about other nonprofits that are grappling with trademark disputes.