Salesforce still using 'social enterprise' despite trademark application climbdown

Natalie Brandweiner
Contributing Editor
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Despite ditching its controversial attempt to trademark the term 'social enterprise', is using promotional messaging bearing the phrase at its Dreamforce event in San Francisco. 

Earlier this month, Salesforce withdraw its bid to trademark the term when it attracted fierce criticism from the non-profit sector. In a statement announcing the abandonment of the bid, CEO Marc Benioff pledged to remove the phrase from its marketing strategy. 

He said: "It was never our intention to create confusion in the social sector which we have supported since our founding. As a result of the feedback we received, has decided to withdraw its efforts to trademark the term 'social enterprise' and plans to discontinue its use in our marketing."

However, as the image below demonstrates, marketing collateral bearing the disputed phrase still features at the Dreamforce 2012 conference which kicks off later today.

The decision to drop the trademark attempt came after notable figures from across the globe joined a campaign against's move. Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, co-authors of The Spirit Level, werejust some of those that put their names to a protest letter to Benioff.
The letter stated that’s attempt to use the term for “private profit” was“very damaging to our movement” and called on the Cloud giant to withdraw its current and all future applications regarding ‘social enterprise’, as well as to stop using the term to describe its products and services. had attempted to trademark the term in the US, UK, Australia and Jamaica. However, its application to the Unites States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) was initially rejected back in March on the grounds that “the applied-for mark merely describes a feature or purpose of applicant’s goods and/or services”. A deadline was also fast approaching for an appeal on that rejection. 
In addition the US based Social Enterprise Alliance  backed the protests by Social Enteprise UK to block the efforts. The SEA launched a new project,, which it describes as "a launching pad for social enterprises and their friends to tell the stories of a global movement that began long before began using the phrase to describe its Cloud products". 


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By Jeff Mowatt
28th Sep 2012 08:14

"There is so far no commonly agreed definition. Is an enterprise social if it produces some sort of social benefit? If so, in that sense, many or indeed most traditional businesses for profit can be considered social enterprises. Business enterprises typically produce something of value for clients and customers, otherwise they would cease to exist as business enterprises. Earning thousands or millions of customers can by definition be considered social benefit. Social refers to groups of people, as contrasted with one person. If a company produces a product or service, it has to benefit a group of people sufficiently for them to use that product or service. Owners and stockholders benefit from financial profits gained by the enterprise. Stockholders range from individuals owning relatively large percentages of a company to ordinary pensioners relying on income from micro-investments into the company. Profits from almost any large public corporation are shared among wealthy individual stakeholders to humble, modest households who have holdings in the company through an array of mutual funds managed by government-regulated financial managers."

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