Social enterprises in trademark row with Salesforce

The enterprise software giant has provoked an angry response from social enterprises – businesses that prioritise community and environmental goals over returning profits to shareholders – by attempting to trademark the term in the EU, US and Jamaica, reports The Telegraph.

Social enterprises have started a “not in our name” campaign to ask the software giant to drop the application. Social Enterprise UK, the trade body, accused the US company of a confusing “misappropriation” of the term.

Salesforce said its application only related to “the information technology sector” because “companies are looking for new ways to connect with customers, partners and employees and [we are] empowering them with what we call social enterprise technologies”.

It added that it “does not intend to own the rights for the term within the non-profit sector and is not seeking to restrict uses of the phrase by others in philanthropy, social responsibility, community involvement or mission-driven organisations”.

However, Peter Holbrook, chief executive of Social Enterprise UK, said this showed that Salesforce “seems to fundamentally misunderstand what social enterprises are”.

“Yes, they are socially responsible but they are businesses and they work in all industries and sectors,” he said.

“They are not confined to ‘philanthropy’ products. They make cars, provide energy, healthcare, manufacture goods and deliver services of all descriptions. This includes software development, content management systems, cloud computing. We do not want [Salesforce] to try to legally close off any sector to social enterprises.”

He added that a reassurance from Salesforce that it would not try to use the trademark in many sectors “offers us no comfort at all”.

“Social enterprise is achieving so much but it is still in its relative infancy. We will not let it be destroyed by people who want to appropriate our name for private profit.”

Mr Holbrook also pointed to marketing material which said Virgin founder Richard Branson and Burberry boss Angela Ahrendt will be talking about “how they are turning their companies into social enterprises” at a Salesforce event.

“We have contacted them separately to see what they say about this description of their businesses. They, like [Salesforce] have strong track records on corporate philanthropy, but I think they will agree with me that this does not make them social enterprises.”