Posted by Heidi Forland-Fetty | May 14, 2021 | 0 Comments

Nonprofit Trademark Benefits

The Starbucks Mermaid Effect

What do you think of when you see the two golden arches? McDonald's and their dangerously addictive French fries, right? You have certain ideas, expectations, feelings and maybe even smells associated with seeing the trademarked big ‘M'. So too, people would be able to recognize this logo all over the world. This is not by magic but by marketing. Good marketing sticks in your memory.

The same marketing strategy that businesses use with trademarks also applies to nonprofits: When you look at the logo for United Way, Salvation Army, or American Red Cross, your brain is flooded with thoughts about the nonprofits – what they do, where they do it, how they collect donations, etc. These nonprofits have their name and logo trademarked so that they stand out. Trademarks help to establish, build, and maintain a brand that is unique and specific, not only in the public but in the law. But what is a trademark and do you need one for your nonprofit?

This blog post will give you a brief overview of what a trademark is and provide a glimpse into the benefits of registering your nonprofit for one.

A trademark is a type of intellectual property that identifies the source of goods and services, provides legal protection, and helps guard against fraud. Trademarks can be a word, phrase, design, or combination used to distinguish one organization from another in interstate commerce.

Top 3 Benefits:

  1. Federal protections – As trademarks are registered under federal law, they have a valid license in all 50 states. Registering a name or logo for a trademark gives official notice that you are claiming ownership of it. Once you have a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, you have legal access to federal courts if another organization infringes on your rights. You are more likely to win damages and be reimbursed legal fees in court if you have a federally registered trademark.
  2. Expansion – Having a trademark can help your organization grow and reach more people. Other organizations may want to partner with your nonprofit to do fundraisers. If you get involved in a joint venture or temporary partnership, some of your intellectual property may be used. If so, it is best to have clear ownership outlined to avoid future problems.
  3. Value - Trademarks build your brand, reputation, and goodwill with donors and volunteers. They demonstrate you are a professional organization and gives the public a sense that the nonprofit knows what it is doing.

Deciding if your nonprofit should register something as a trademark can be difficult. Additionally, registering for a trademark can be complicated. Talking with an attorney may help you decide what your nonprofit should trademark. The United States Patent and Trademark Office itself even recognizes the benefit of legal counsel when filing a trademark. Here at Mission Counsel, we would be happy to advise on what your nonprofit should consider trademarking as well as register the trademark for you, so you can focus on your mission. Let us know if you have questions related to trademarks or other intellectual property matters.

About the Author

Heidi Forland-Fetty

Hi, I am Heidi Forland-Fetty. I am the head paralegal for Mission Counsel. I joined Terry in June 2020 and am excited to help expand the firm. I have strong interests in nonprofit, contract, business, real estate, and intellectual property law. CONTACT US My Story Growing up in the Greate...


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