New Handbook On Intellectual Property For Nonprofits Is Published

Date: August 19, 2012

This article was originally published in The Examiner:

“Intellectual property (IP), in the form of copyrights, trademarks, lists of members, attendees, exhibitors, and others are often an association’s most valuable property. And in this modern internet era, everything is electronic, so understanding and implementing the rules, best practices, and protections for IP of nonprofit organizations and associations is critical. We thought it was timely to help associations protect their IP by giving them a clear, concrete reference book to turn to,” says the co-author of the just published Intellectual Property for Nonprofit Organizations and Associations, Jefferson Glassie.

Jeff and his co-authors Eileen Johnson and Dana Lynch are attorneys with the boutique law firm, Whiteford, Taylor, and Preston, in Washington, DC.

“This book will be a good resource to association execs and lawyers who want to know the law applicable to IP from the nonprofit context,” said Jeff. “It’s unfortunately pretty common for association publications to show up on other websites, which takes away sales for the association. Piracy is one big problem. Associations also face issues related to unauthorized uses of trademarks and certification marks, which can adversely affect the association’s brand integrity. And finally, there are all sorts of internet, domain name, and cybersecurity issues that associations and nonprofits have to face like all businesses.”

Are there special challenges in protecting intellectual property outside the US that associations face?

“The answer to that question is a definite yes. One really big issue involves trademarks. In the United States, trademark rights arise based on use, and can be supplemented and enhanced through registration. In most other countries, that’s not true; registration is required to own a trademark. So, failure to register the organization’s mark can potentially lead to loss of rights in a name or acronym in another country.”

In an era where content seems to freely available via the web -- where you can find out almost anything about anything with the push of a few keystrokes -- is intellectual property a "dying concept?"

“Jeff had a panel presentation at ASAE,” said Eileen, “on how different generations view association law issues, and from the perspective of millennials, confidentiality, privacy, copyright, and trademark laws have different meanings. There is much more of a feeling among the younger generation that open access is a more reasonable approach to IP rules. Many in other countries have similar views. However, we think that the IP laws will remain very important, particularly since so much of what everyone does involves copyrighted materials/videos/music, and there will always be a desire to protect one’s own works.”

What's the most important thing for associations to keep in mind as they consider protecting their intellectual property?

“The association’s name, acronym, logo, and copyrighted materials basically represent the association’s brand,” says Jeff. “An association’s name and public reputation, its distinctiveness, are critical for success. Protecting the association’s brand is at all times an extremely important task and should not be shirked or overlooked.”

Is there anything new in the law in recent years that "changes" the concept of IP?

“Well,” says Jeff, “the law is trying to catch up with our electronic landscape, but it’s not there yet. We also have literally billions of people online sharing information and that inherently means IP. Right now, it’s a bit like a square peg in a round hole, but the basics of the law are generally adequate in many respects, though much more can and needs to be done.”

Intellectual Property was debuted at the ASAE Annual Meeting in Dallas this past week, and is available through the ASAE Bookstore.