In the latest events that unraveled earlier this month on concerns that Salesforce is attempting to register a trademark for the term “social enterprise”, Steve Garnett, Chairman of EMEA at Salesforce, responded to the concerns through a post on the company blog last week.
Entitled The Best of Both Worlds, he expressed that the company “has applied to register the trademark for ‘social enterprise’ in the information technology sector”, adding that “businesses or organizations in different sectors can use the same trademark. Salesforce.com does not own or intend to own the trademark rights for the term social enterprise within the nonprofit sector, and is not seeking to restrict descriptive uses of the phrase by others in philanthropy, social responsibility, community involvement or mission-driven organizations.”
Early comments on the blog post suggest that the message does not satisfy the concerns. Celia Richardson, Director of Communications at Social Enterprise UK, wrote that social enterprises are not restricted to philanthropic or not for profit sectors and could comprise various business activities – including computing and platform development – that satisfy social missions. “To appropriate the name social enterprise for private profit is going to harm the social enterprise movement.”
Others hold a firm stance that Salesforce.com should simply stop. “Social enterprise is a movement to create a better world and it has been a hard earned struggle to mainstream the term as we know it. Just don’t do it,” said Jason Mollring of Social Enterprise Alley.
Since it was first known that Salesforce was attempting to register the trademark, opponents have made campaigns and videos, and used Twitter to spread their disagreement. Interestingly enough, it has become an opportunity for practitioners in social enterprise to let a greater audience know what a social enterprise is. Many responding to Garnett’s blog post have tried to explain what social enterprises are, as they feel that even Salesforce themselves are unaware. Studies have been done recently that show public awareness of social enterprise is still lacking which can hinder their growth.
Garnett has made it clear that the company has registered the trademark for “social enterprise” and shows no sign of stopping now. As much as this external threat exists for social entrepreneurs, an opportunity to improve social enterprise visibility likewise exists.
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