• September 5, 2012
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Salesforce.com Drops Its Application to Trademark "Social Enterprise"

In response to a firestorm of criticism from some of the world's leading business organizations, Salesforce.com has dropped its quest to patent the tern "social enterprise," and will remove any references to the term in its marketing materials.

The cloud-based CRM solutions provider had attempted to trademark the term in the United States, Europe, Australia, and Jamaica, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected the application in March on the grounds that the term social enterprise "describes a feature or purpose of the applicant's goods and/or services." Salesforce.com had filed an appeal of that ruling, but now apparently reversed its stance and no longer plans to use the term. 

For nearly two years, Salesforce.com evangelized the term "social enterprise" to describe how social and mobile cloud technologies empower companies to connect with customers, partners, and employees in entirely new ways.

When the company applied to trademark the term earlier this year, members of the social sector expressed concerns that it would cause confusion around the meaning of the term. 

The Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA), an organization with more than 1,000 members in 13 regional chapters across the United States, led the opposition to  Salesforce.com's application on the grounds that it claimed the term social enterprise had been commonly used for more than two decades to describe business models, both nonprofit and for-profit, whose primary purpose is the common good. 

The SEA even went so far as to launch thisissocialenterprise.com, which it described as "a launching pad for social enterprises and their friends to tell the stories of a global movement that began long before Salesforce.com began using the phrase to describe its cloud products."  

"Clearly, Salesforce.com's trademark application, if successful, could pre-empt legitimate social enterprises from using this elegant but ubiquitous phrase to describe the hard, innovative work they do to create a better world.  The term is generic and descriptive, and until very recently was never construed to describe a cloud CRM system," said Kevin Lynch, president and CEO of the SEA, in a statement.  "In fact, there are many social enterprises already operating in the computer and software spaces for which Salesforce.com is specifically attempting to secure the mark.  They, along with all social enterprises across the globe, would be deeply damaged if Salesforce.com succeeds."

"It was never our intention to create confusion in the social sector, which we have supported since our founding," said Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com's chairman and CEO, in a statement. "As a result of the feedback we received, salesforce.com has decided to withdraw its efforts to trademark the term 'social enterprise' and plans to discontinue its use in our marketing."

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