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Non-profits have brands and trademarks too

Posted by ipelton on: April 27th, 2012

This guest post, by former intern W. Reid Morris (JD, 2012, Howard University School of Law), discusses the importance of trademark and brand protection for non-profit organizations:

In 2011, the value of Apple Computer’s “brand” was calculated to be over $153 BILLION. Apple, at the top of the list, was followed by Google at $111.5 billion, IBM at nearly $101 billion, and McDonalds at $81 billion.[1] The brand value of these companies is made up by a number of factors with one of the most important being the consumer goodwill associated with the brand. This consumer goodwill helps to signal future profitability and is anchored by the name and trademarks that identify these brands. These four brands are for-profit enterprises. In fact, all 100 brands on the BrandZ top-100 chart are owned by for-profit corporations. But, creating, maintaining, and enhancing the value of non-profit brands is just as important for the public and the owners, managers, and stakeholders of those brands.

With a brand like Apple, we know their name, but we also know their logos, products, stores, staff, services, and even their top managers. While this breadth of brand image may not be practical for all non-profits, crafting a cohesive image that fairly represents who you are and what you do is important. It is also important for non-profits to look beyond just a name and logo and to follow the example of these valuable brands by creating more complete brand images that can be instantly recognized by the public.

Whether or not you seek federal trademark registration for multiple facets of your brand, consistent use of those branding elements will create consumer associations that add to the value of your brand. Protecting a broader range of elements of your brand through federal trademark registration can allow your organization to exclusively use those brand elements to identify your goods or services, which will further strengthen the value of your brand.

A stronger and more valuable brand means that your non-profit can have greater awareness amongst the consuming (or donating) public, and it means that your campaigns can get more done with less money and effort.

If you are interested in learning more about how your organization’s trademarks can be better utilized, better protected, and further developed, get in touch with a trademark attorney, and don’t be afraid to ask about pro-bono legal services for your non-profit.

© 2012. W. Reid Morris. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Millward Brown Optimor “BrandZ Top 100 Most  Valuable Global Brands 2011” index, available at http://www.millwardbrown.com/libraries/optimor_brandz_files/2011_brandz_top100_chart.sflb.ashx (last accessed April 24, 2012).

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