While altruism is supposed to be the main motivator behind running a non-profit organization, there are so many scams and hoaxes out there that are trying to exploit this noble idea. In turn, people have grown weary of this, which makes them distrust even some of the most legitimate of trends. Needless to say, this shouldn’t be that big of a problem, seeing as how you’re supposed to check out the cause before you pledge resources to it anyhow. However, what if you were to find some contradictory data online?
Once your non-profit gains some legitimacy, some malicious third parties may see this as a perfect opportunity to start cybersquatting. What this means is that they might try to, quite ironically, make some profit on the positive reputation of your non-profit organization. To do this, they’ll make a name similar to yours, use a similar (or same logo), same corporate colors and try to emulate you in whatever way they can. Needless to say, this can get you in a whole world of trouble.
1. How bad is this actually?
First of all, this cybersquatting entity is stealing some of your spotlight, which means that it’s diminishing the effectiveness of your primary task. Second, it’s destroying your reputation in the online community. Even though you might be able to explain, pretty effortlessly at that, that you have nothing to do with this, a lot of people will simply not be interested in hearing your excuses. Lastly, these people might spend their hard-earned money on this scam, money that they would otherwise pledge to your cause. As for the question of how bad is this actually – it really doesn’t get any worse.
2. Don’t worry about bad ramifications
One of the problems that you’ll encounter on this road is the misconception that, for some unknown reason, non-profits shouldn’t trademark their brand. This rests on the idea that if an organization is doing something for the benefit of others, it shouldn’t hold a monopoly on their own intellectual property. The flaw with this point of view lies in the fact that it completely ignores the potential damage made by these users (abusers) of your intellectual property, which is something we’ve previously discussed. In other words, your non-profit should definitely trademark its name and its logo, despite the fact that some may claim otherwise.
3. Start by doing your research
You can’t just pick a name and make a decision to make it yours. This is what a cyber-squatter would do. Before you do such a thing you need to do a brief trademark research and ensure that your trademark is available for use. Keep in mind, though, that most trademarks are regional, which means that just because a name is taken in another country, it doesn’t mean that you can’t use it. For instance, as an Australian non-profit, you should only think about trademark registration in Australia, instead of looking up Europe and the US, as well. Nonetheless, keep in mind that you might want to expand or migrate further on.
4. What are the benefits
So far, we’ve discussed why and how you should protect your trademark, so, now, let’s focus a bit on different levels of protection that registering a trademark brings. The first thing you get this way is brand awareness, seeing as how protecting the trademark makes your brand completely unique in this field. Second, it provides you with a license, that will make your donors and contributors much more secure when it comes to dealing with your business. Lastly, it brings legitimacy and reliability to your brand, which is a great start for what you might try to build over the course of time.
5. Protecting your brand
Lastly, even though you’re not a business, you’re definitely a brand. While this is supposed to go without saying, there are a lot of people who, strangely enough, remain completely oblivious of this fact. For this reason, there’s a lot of branding in front of you and this is a perfect place for you to start. Certain symbols and colors evoke certain emotions, while there are some that may belong to the field itself. For instance, a logo with a cross or a crescent would clearly belong to a religious organization, while the one with a book would probably be an education-oriented non-profit. All of this needs to be taken into consideration.
At the very end, registering your non-profit trademark is not that hard, seeing as how it is something done by a myriad of companies and organizations on a daily basis. Still, with these numbers ramping up, it’s only a matter of time before the idea that is currently available finally gets occupied by someone else. For this reason alone, you need to be ready to spring into action as soon as possible and knowing a thing or two on this topic might be the necessary first step in doing so.