The attempt to trademark ‘social enterprise’ is mystifying

The attempt to trademark ‘social enterprise’ is mystifying
The Guardian
10.08.12

Peter Holbrook explains why Social Enterprise UK is leading the charge against attempts by Salesforce to trademark the term

Salesforce’s attempt to trademark ‘social enterprise’ and use the term to describe its products and services has mystified the social enterprise sector. It’s a term that has been used for well over a decade to describe a way of doing business that exists to tackle social and environmental problems. So why Salesforce has now decided to legally adopt the term is baffling to say the least.

As a sector, we’re proud to use the term social enterprise. It fittingly describes our unique approach to business – social enterprises are primarily driven by a social mission and reinvest the majority of profits in pursuit of that mission. We are not driven by public or private sector interests. Our sector is turning over billions and employing millions of people, creating wealth and social capital.

With the launch of Big Society Capital, the world’s first wholesale social investment intermediary, and the passing of the Social Value Act, we’re on the cusp of social enterprise entering the mainstream vocabulary in the UK. It’s already widely understood in the business world, and is firmly on the radar of multinationals including Google, Microsoft, Virgin and PwC. And opinion formers (the media) and decision makers (politicians) both in the UK and across Europe are increasingly interested in what our movement can deliver – practical solutions and innovative approaches.

The social enterprise sector is only going to grow, both at home and abroad.

Attempts by Salesforce to derail the social enterprise term from its meaning are likely to confuse people at this critical time — a move which is dangerous to the people, communities and organisations we’re trying to help.

At Social Enterprise UK, we’re mobilising the sector and have already initiated talks with social enterprise networks across the world about the launch of a wider campaign to protect the ‘social enterprise’ term on behalf of the global movement.

That said, I hope it doesn’t get to that and remain optimistic that we can open up a positive dialogue with Salesforce to ensure that the term ‘social enterprise’ is not appropriated for private gain.