Microsoft forms Social Enterprise Alliance
I regularly advise students and social entrepreneurs to think about trademark in relation to their ventures, and here's a good example why: Microsoft has just announced the formation of the Social Enterprise Alliance.
No, not that Social Enterprise Alliance, the organization that brings together social entrepreneurs. Microsoft's new Social Enterprise Alliance is a social networking "partnership centered on the customization and integration of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007."
A search of the U.S. trademark database indicates that "social enterprise alliance" isn't registered yet to anyone, though SEA could try to assert common law trademark rights if it wanted to try to get Microsoft not to use the name.
Of course, SEA may be OK with another SEA roaming around, but if Microsoft successfully registers the mark things could eventually interesting. My personal favorite example in this regard is the original Burger King, which got a state trademark for its restaurant but failed to consider federal trademark until after the national Burger King chain had registered it. A judge carved out a 20-mile bubble for the original to operate free from competition from the federally trademarked Burger King, but the original cannot go to scale under its own name.
Microsoft's social enterprise announcements got me thinking about social enterprise & trademark more generally, and a federal trademark search reveals another interesting development: Live Elements, a Virginia technology firm, has recently filed to register "social enterprise" as a proprietary mark for its own online networking platform.