Online operations may now be the norm for many nonprofits, but they come with security risks that warrant careful attention. In May of this year, “WannaCry,” a computer “ransomware” attack, locked up over 200,000 computer systems world-wide. The attacks demanded payment in exchange for return of the locked-up data. In September, the credit bureau Equifax revealed that it had been hacked, putting over 140 million Americans’ personal information at risk.
Few things are more fundamental than one’s name. It lets others know who you are and how to find you. May a nonprofit trademark its corporate name, so that others are not legally allowed to use it? Should a nonprofit do so, to optimally protect its reputation, to preserve its unique identify, to avoid confusion? And what else should a nonprofit’s leaders consider in developing – and protecting – the organization’s name?
Should We – and May We – Obtain Trademark Protection?
As any nonprofit leader knows, volunteers serve vitally important functions in many nonprofit organizations. What happens when volunteers create original works for their organizations? Generally speaking, the volunteers will own the works absent any specific agreements otherwise, and whether the volunteers or the organizations realize it or not. Nonprofits therefore should take proactive steps regarding copyright issues, such as through ownership and licensing agreements. These measures may become especially important if the created works later become financially valuable, if disputes arise regarding the work, or if the nonprofit wants to transfer or alter the work.