World & Nation

ALS Assn. drops its bid to trademark ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’

Tim Shaw
Former Tennessee Titans linebacker Tim Shaw is dunked as he takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in the second quarter of a preseason football game between the Titans and the Minnesota Vikings Aug. 28. Shaw has announced that he has ALS.
(Wade Payne / AP)

The ALS Assn. has announced it is withdrawing two trademark applications it submitted for the phrases “Ice Bucket Challenge,” and “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” after getting flak for its attempt.

In a statement on its Facebook page, the organization said it had received “several messages” regarding the trademark applications, and said the move was made “in good faith” in order to protect the campaign from “misuse.”

“However, we understand the public’s concern and are withdrawing the trademark applications,” the statement read. “We appreciate the generosity and enthusiasm of everyone who has taken the challenge and donated to ALS charities.”

The applications, available for viewing here and here, included screenshots of the organization’s website, demonstrating “prominent reference” to the Ice Bucket Challenge term.


The challenge has become a viral campaign in which participants douse themselves (or their friends) in buckets of ice water on video and post them to social media, challenging others to do the same or donate money to research for ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a degenerative condition also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The campaign has brought a huge windfall to the charity: Officials announced fundraising had topped $100 million as of Friday.

Washington, D.C.-based trademark attorney Erik Pelton drew attention to the applications in a blog post Wednesday, saying he didn’t feel the trademark claims were appropriate.

Reached by phone Friday, Pelton said he thought the organization’s claim to the phrase was “questionable at best, legally” since it has not been clear that the ALS Assn. was the first charity to use the phrase.


Pelton, who also took the Ice Bucket Challenge in a video posted to his website, said he supports the cause and fundraising for ALS research. But he was surprised to see that the group had applied for the rights to the trademark.

“I thought that it was in bad taste,” he said. “Trying to take that phrase from the public and potentially stopping others from using it would be a disservice to everybody.”

For more breaking news, follow me @cmaiduc

Get our Today's Headlines newsletter