Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the huge Breast Cancer Research Charity Fund, has spent over a $1 million in legal fees to sue other charities using the word ‘cure’ in their names. The Komen Foundation is claiming that they own the legal rights to the word ‘cure’ so is taking steps to protect the word as their own trademark.
The large charity has sued more than 100 smaller charities who also happen to use the word ‘cure’ in their names. The Komen Foundation is also suing charities who also choose the color ‘pink’ in support of their colors.
According to the Huffington Post, the Komen Foundation is fairly aggressive against the smaller charities that they believe are guilty of copyright infringement. As a result, the smaller charities are forced to defend themselves in and out of court by hiring expensive attorneys that they can’t afford.
As one of the charities interviewed in the article observed, you would expect something like this from a huge corporation like McDonald’s, but not from another charitable organization.
I know nothing of copyright infringement laws, but a charity owning the word ‘cure’ seems on the same level as a writer owning the word ‘the’. It just doesn’t make any sense. If the word ‘Komen’ was in the title of the other charitable organizations, that might give the foundation grounds for a lawsuit.
But it isn’t.
The use of the word ‘cure’ is so generic that it’s really hard for me to believe that any other charitable organization could be confused with the Komen Foundation just because they both use the word ‘cure’ in their titles. And, although the color pink is largely associated with Breast Cancer research, it’s just a color. How can one charitable organization claim an entire color for itself? Have they tried to sue Victoria's Secret as well? Will smaller charities get sued for giving out pink t-shirts to fun-run participants in the future? (I’ve yet to hear of any gay rights organizations suing over the use of rainbows by others.)
Are other charitable organizations going to have to be more cautious about which words they choose to use in association with their charities in the future? I knew that corporations were fairly protective of their trademarks, but I didn’t realize that charities had this much money to spend on power attorneys to crush their small opponents.
I don’t know about you, but when I donate to a charity, I am not intending to give them money to spend on frivolous lawsuits attacking smaller charities. If you support Breast Cancer research, you might just want to find another charity to give your money to.