Salesforce Tries to Trademark Social Enterprise

A storm has been brewing over an attempt by enterprise software company Salesforce.com to trademark the term Social Enterprise.

In a blog post last week, Steve Garnett, the Chairman and co-President of EMEA Salesforce and Mark Benioff, the CEO, attempted to explain their attempt to trademark the name of an important sector of the business world.

A Social Enterprise is a business that works predominantly for the direct benefit of people rather than making a profit and can be a non-profit or a for-profit organisation, but will ususally reduce its profit margins in order to invest in human & environmental improvements.

Co-operatives, mutuals and charities can all be regarded as social enterprises and some well known British examples include the John Lewis Partnership, The Big Issue and The Co-operative Group.

There is even a "governing" body called Social Enterprise UK (SEUK) which provides consultancy services and advice to any organisation wishing to engage with social enterprises.

Salesforce.com have already filed trademark applications in the US and Jamaica but now the European and UK attempt is ruffling feathers on this side of the Atlantic.

In their blog post, Garnett and Benioff, who have been directly approached by numerous people with concerns over their move, have accused detractors as being "confused", saying that they are only trying to trademark the term "social enterprise" within the realm of enterprise software and the IT sector. They state that they are not trying to trademark the term for general use, saying that it should not affect philanthropic, socially-responsible or other community organisations.

But the boss of SEUK, Peter Holbrook, still has serious concerns about the move from the private company, valued at an estimated $17 billion, saying that it needs to have a "serious rethink" and should "leave real social enterprises alone."

SEUK has identified aspects in Salesforce marketing which refers to Virgin and Burberry as social enterprises and Holbrook has formally written to Virgin boss, Richard Branson, calling for his support. Holbrook’s organisation is also talking with its lawyers about the next steps to pursue and has taken to social network twitter with its #notinourname hashtag.

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