Social Enterprise Alliance Opposes Salesforce.com’s Attempt to Trademark the Term “Social Enterprise” and Encourages Salesforce.com’s Engagement to Build the Field

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“Social enterprise” is a phrase that for more than two decades has commonly been used to describe businesses whose primary purpose is the common good, and the Social Enterprise Alliance is now acting to protect that original meaning of the term by opposing Salesforce.com's efforts to trademark it.

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Social Enterprise Alliance

“The term ‘social enterprise’ is generic and descriptive, and until very recently was never construed to describe a cloud CRM system."

Social Enterprise Alliance, the membership organization for social enterprise in North America with over 1,000 members and 13 regional chapters across major U.S. markets, today announced its opposition to Salesforce.com’s effort to gain trademarks on the term “social enterprise”. Simultaneously, it reached out to the CEO of salesforce.com with a proposal to create a deep partnership between Salesforce.com and the global social enterprise movement.

“Social enterprise” is a phrase that for more than two decades has been commonly used to describe business models, both nonprofit and for-profit, whose primary purpose is the common good. Last year, Salesforce.com, the publicly-traded customer relationship management and cloud computing company, began using the phrase to describe businesses that are socially networked through its cloud CRM products, and has recently applied for trademarks on the phrase in the U.S.,U.K., E.U., and Jamaica (US trademark application #85492013).

SEA is part of a campaign that was initiated by Social Enterprise U.K. (SEUK) in response to salesforce.com’s trademark application in the U.K. (see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/yourbusiness/9488411/Social-enterprises-in-trademark-row-with-Salesforce.html). Salesforce.com has already applied for similar marks in the U.S. and has been initially rejected by the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO) on the grounds that the phrase is merely descriptive (http://tsdr.uspto.gov/documentviewer?caseId=sn85492013&docId=OOA20120313211444).

“The term ‘social enterprise’ is generic and descriptive, and until very recently was never construed to describe a cloud CRM system,” said Kevin Lynch, President & CEO of SEA. “In fact, there are many social enterprises already operating in the computer and software spaces for which salesforce.com is specifically attempting to secure the mark.”

Therefore, SEA is taking four steps:

1. In solidarity with the global social enterprise community, SEA called on salesforce.com to withdraw its recent U.K., E.U. and Jamaican trademark applications.

2. Salesforce.com’s U.S. application is currently in the response period after being initially rejected by USPTO. SEA has urged its members, and friends of the social enterprise movement, to contact USPTO to declare their support of USPTO’s decision to reject the salesforce.com mark. SEA will facilitate this outreach to USPTO through a special section on its website: http://www.se-alliance.org/protect.

3. SEA has announced a new project, THISisSocialEnterprise.com, as a launching pad for social enterprises and their friends to tell the stories of a global movement that began long before salesforce.com began using the phrase to describe its cloud products.

4. Finally, SEA has reached out to the founder and CEO of salesforce.com, Marc Benioff, to engage in a deep discussion of ways the company and the social enterprise movement can collaborate to build the social enterprise field.

“The fact that salesforce.com invented the 1/1/1 model for integrating people, technology and resources towards a better world convinces us that they would be an ideal partner for building the social enterprise movement that we represent,” Lynch said. “Nothing about the company causes us to attribute any ill intent to their marketing efforts around ‘social enterprise’. We imagine that it is simply a case of ‘mistaken identity’. We hope that engaging them to not only disambiguate the term, but to actually help us build the international movement, might be an even more potent platform for them.”

SEA will keep its stakeholders apprised of its efforts via this link: http://www.se-alliance.org/protect.

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