ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Charities battle for ice bucket rights

Attempts in the US to trademark the fundraising stunt have caused a storm of protest

If you haven't yet taken the ice bucket challenge, the chances are the dreaded nomination is creeping ever closer through social media as, one by one, distant acquaintances and friends succumb.

However, the American medical charity behind the craze, the ALS Association (Alsa), has angered rivals by attempting to trademark the fundraising gimmick – the idea of someone dumping a bucket of freezing water and ice over their head – and is under pressure to say what it will do with the vast amount of money it has raised.

Alsa funds research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), known as motor neurone disease in the UK, and its income has risen from $24m (£15m) for the whole of last year to more than $100m in the past four weeks alone.

 

But its attempt to commercialise the phrase "ice bucket challenge" – it lodged a trademark application with the United States Patent office last week – may have backfired. Others in the charity community are now demanding to know how the new money will be spent.

A lawyer for a leading US charity, who asked not to be named, said: "Alsa tried to freeze us out and make a fortune out of an idea that will become as commonplace as a fun run or a charity cycle. So naturally there's a bit of pay-back. They've brought this attention on themselves."

Alsa said the flood of "ice bucket" money would not be held back "for a rainy day" or put into a long-term endowment fund. It pledged it would be spent on research into ALS – commonly known in the US as Lou Gehrig's disease after the baseball player who revealed in 1939 that he was suffering from the disease.

Cool times: Lou Gehrig Cool times: Lou Gehrig Last year, Alsa spent 18 per cent of its revenue on administration and other fundraising costs. A statement of its "functional expenses" lodged with the Harrington Group of accountants stated that salaries, research, travel, conference fees and equipment purchases were among the $3.6m it spent from its donations. It remains to be seen how much the expenses bill will rise, if at all, as a result of the extra donations.

What began on US TV channels, focusing mainly on sports stars, quickly spread to everyone from the former US president George W Bush and Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, to the singer Kylie Minogue, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch and the model Kate Moss. Barack Obama and David Cameron have been challenged but have so far refused, although both made donations.

However, the attempt to trademark the stunt hit a sour note even though two applications filed to protect the phrase "ice bucket challenge" were quickly withdrawn.

Kylie Minogue doing the ice bucket challenge Kylie Minogue doing the ice bucket challenge The US charity community – and its legal advisers – complained that if the patent application was successful, other charities who attempted to hold similar events would have had to pay Alsa a percentage of any money they raised.

They also pointed out that fundraisers involving a "cold water challenge" and other ice plunges had taken place in New Zealand and in the US before Alsa's campaign went viral this summer.

One legal argument sent to the US Patent Office pointed out that almost three quarters of all charity fund-raisers in the US and in other Western countries, involved running but no one had tried to own the phrases "fun run" or "charity run".

The UK equivalent of Alsa, the Motor Neurone Disease Association, defended the US association and criticised the Macmillan Cancer Support charity for announcing its own ice bucket challenge event. MNDA supporters accused Macmillan of attempting to hijack a successful fundraising idea, saying it would dilute the overall attempt to increase awareness of MND.

Kate Moss doing the ice bucket challenge Kate Moss doing the ice bucket challenge After the deluge...

How charities are competing with the ice bucket challenge:

* Macmillan Cancer Support is challenging men and women to "Shave or Style" their hair and donate £3 by texting STYLE to 70550

* For the testicular cancer charity Check One Two you can take a compromising or funny picture of yourself on social media and send the picture to #FeelingNuts

* For the 12th year in a row, Japanese porn stars are offering their services in conjunction with The Japan Foundation for Aids Prevention. Nicknamed "Boob Aid", donations are made in exchange for fondling the models' breasts.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

    £28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

    £22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

    £13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

    £20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

    Day In a Page

    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border