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ALS Association Withdraws Ice Bucket Challenge Trademark Applications Amid Backlash

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ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE
WARSAW, POLAND - AUGUST 31: (SOUTH AFRICA AND POLAND OUT) Piotr Krasko, captain of TVP's team and Kamil Durczok, captain of TVN's team take part in the 'Ice Bucket Challenge aided by Agata Mlynarska and Agnieszka Szulim during the friendly football match between TVP and TVN on August 31, 2014 in Warsaw, Poland. The teams were captained by the leading news presenters of each network while the game was refereed by the former goal keeper of Poland's National Team. All money raised from ticket sale | Gallo Images via Getty Images

The ALS Association has withdrawn applications to trademark the terms "ice bucket challenge" and "ALS ice bucket challenge," after steps taken to claim legal rights to the phrases were met with controversy.

If the association's applications had been accepted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the organization could have taken legal action against groups for using the phrases without permission, including on social media accounts, according to the Washington Post. As the ice bucket challenge originated weeks before its connection to the ALS Association, as Mashable pointed out, some were not pleased with the nonprofit's desire to claim ownership.

The ALS Association made a statement on its Facebook account confirming the applications had been withdrawn.


Erik Pelton, a trademark attorney, wrote on his company's blog last Wednesday that the association faced an uphill battle if they want to win ownership over the phrases. Among several reasons, Pelton pointed out the generic wording of "ice bucket challenge" and its connection to the ALS Association as to why the trademarks would make little sense. He also noted the association's trademarks could restrict charitable fundraising for other causes: "If others want to use the phrase to raise money for their causes, why would ALS Association want to stop them?"

The same day the association announced on Facebook it was withdrawing the applications, it also released a statement confirming the organization had raised more than $100 million in donations due to the ice bucket challenge. The association has yet to announce specific plans for the way those funds will be used throughout the coming years, but said it's determined to "achieve maximum impact" with ice bucket challenge dollars.

In its statement released Friday, the association confirmed its commitment to turning the donations into action.

"The word gratitude doesn’t do enough to express what we are feeling right now," Barbara Newhouse, president and CEO of the ALS Association, said in the statement. "We recognize a profound sense of urgency and are engaged in discussions about how we’re going to put this money to work in the short term and into the future."

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