ALS Association withdraws attempt to trademark ‘ice bucket challenge’

The ALS Association has withdrawn its attempt to trademark ‘ice bucket challenge’, a move that could have stopped other charities using the term for fundraising.

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The application was filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office last week and alleged that the charity owned the rights to the phrases “Ice Bucket Challenge” and “ALS Ice Bucket”. However, lawyers questioned the veracity of the claim, with Fiona McBride, trademark attorney at Withers & Rogers, believing it was “highly likely” the application would not go through because the charity has no direct association with ice bucket challenges in general.

A spokeswoman for the ALS Association told Reuters that following growing public concern the charity is withdrawing the trademark. She said the association was filed “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”.

The viral campaign has become popular in both the US and the UK, with hundreds of celebrities including Victoria Beckham and Leonardo di Caprio, taking part. It involves people throwing buckets of iced water over their head and, in most cases, donating to charity.

In the US, that donation has tended to go to the ALS Association, which has raised in excess of $100m dollars from 3 million donors over the past month. That is more than it raised in the whole of 2013.

In the UK both the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA) and Macmillan have raised more than £3m from donations. However, Macmillan has come in for some criticism for “hijacking” the challenge and has been forced to defend its actions.

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