Trademark infringement disputes are not limited to those between for-profit companies. Indeed, charities also own trademarks and they can and do enforce their trademarks against other organizations (charitable or not) through cease and desist letters, lawsuits, etc.
Case in point: Last week, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (“MADD”), a non-profit founded in 1980, sued the founders of a relatively new charity, Mothers Of Drunk Drivers (“MODD”), for trademark infringement and dilution of MADD’s trademarks and service marks. MADD’s complaint, filed in the District of South Carolina, claims that MODD’s use of the marks MOTHERS OF DRUNK DRIVERS and MODD is confusingly similar to MADD’s federally-registered MOTHERS AGAINST DRUNK DRIVING and MADD marks and that the MADD and MOTHERS AGAINST DRUNK DRIVING marks are famous in South Carolina and throughout the United States. Among other claims, MADD’s complaint also asserts a cybersquatting claim based upon MODD’s use of the domain name mothersofdrunkdrivers.org.
MADD claims that MODD’s actions have injured MADD’s fundraising efforts and goodwill and that any money MODD’s founders have raised due to their use of confusingly similar marks is money that could have gone to MADD to support MADD’s mission. MODD’s gofundme.com page, attached as an exhibit to MADD’s complaint and available online, indicates that MODD has raised $555 in 5 months. In terms of damages, MADD seeks to recover all revenues and charitable contributions raised by MODD’s founders as a result of their claimed unlawful conduct. In addition to damages, MADD seeks an order enjoining MODD’s founders from using the MOTHERS OF DRUNK DRIVERS and MODD marks, requiring the destruction of any marketing materials containing such marks, and ordering the cancellation or transfer of the mothersofdrunkdrivers.org domain name.