The Ice Bucket Challenge is not Trademarked

Ice Bucket ChallengeThe Ice Bucket Challenge was extremely popular in the summer of 2014. It involved dumping a bucket of ice water over one’s head and donations to ALS charities. You may have heard some news about plans for the Ice Bucket Challenge to be trademarked. That did not end up happening.

ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Some might recognize it by another name – Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is a neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells that are responsible for controlling voluntary muscles. ALS belongs to a group of disorders that are called motor neuron diseases.

Only about 5% to 10% of all ALS cases are genetically inherited. If one parent carries the gene that is responsible for the disease, it is possible for that parent to pass it to his or her offspring. ALS can also be caused by a gene mutation in more than a dozen genes.

It is known that a defect in a gene called C9orf72 can cause ALS. This happens with about one-third of ALS cases. The actual function of that gene is yet to be discovered. About 20% of genetically inherited, or familial, ALS is from a mutation in a gene that encodes the enzyme copper-zync superoxide dismutase1. The majority, 90% to 95% of all ALS cases, are caused by random, unknown, reasons.

There is no cure for ALS. There are some treatments available that can prolong the onset of some symptoms. There are some medications that can be used to help with muscle fatigue, muscle cramps, pain, depression, and other symptoms. Research is being done in the hopes of finding a cure for ALS.

This is where the Ice Bucket Challenge comes in. It became extremely popular over the summer of 2014. The exact details seemed to vary depending on what Ice Bucket Challenge video you watched. The main idea was to do the Ice Bucket Challenge yourself and then nominate other people to do it, too. The nominated people could do the challenge, or donate $100.00 to the non-profit ALS Association, (or they could do both).

In August of 2014, the ALS Association filed two trademark patents with the US Patent and Trademark Office. The patents identify the ALS Association as the owner of the phrases “Ice Bucket Challenge” and “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge”. The point was to prevent for-profit companies from using it.

Later that month, the ALS Association decided to withdraw those two patents. Their Facebook page has a post that provides some explanation.

We’ve received several messages regarding the trademark applications we filed. We filed these trademarks 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. However, we understand the public’s concern and are withdrawing the trademark applications. We appreciate the generosity and enthusiasm of everyone who has taken the challenge and donated to ALS charities.

In short, the Ice Bucket Challenge is not trademarked by the ALS Association. Groups who want to use it to raise money for other genetically heritable diseases are able to do so.

Image by Global Panorama on Flickr.

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