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I've noticed a bit of confusion among EAs about whether CEA (or technically EVF) owns the phrase "effective altruism". I've heard a couple of EAs claim they have the trademark, or asserted some kind of ownership right against a scammer once. And I do have the impression that CEA tries to manage the EA brand in a way that suggests that they feel like they own it.

However, I checked the US Patent and Trademark Office's database, it shows trademarks on "Centre for Effective Altruism" and "Effective Altruism Global", but not "effective altruism". Is it even possible to have a trademark on the name of a philosophy? Is there some other area of law that is relevant?





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Neither CEA nor EVF own the trademark “Effective Altruism”, and we do not attempt or intend to control other people using the phrase.

We do own trademarks for “Centre for Effective Altruism”, “Effective Altruism Global” and the heartbulb logo. As owners of prominent EA products such as EA Global and EffectiveAltruism.org, CEA does consider itself among the stewards of the EA brand, but not its owner. There are many organisations and individuals whose use of the phrase “EA” (and their associated activities) contribute to the overall EA brand, and we think that’s appropriate.

Addendum: we have in rare instances attempted to prevent people acting in ways antithetical to EA principles from identifying themselves with EA (example), but it remains the case that we do not generally do this among members of the community acting in good faith.

IANAL: I view 'effective altruism' to not be owned, and if any organization claims to own the term I'm going to ignore them. I expect most folks to share my opinion here.

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Great question, I would love to have clarity on this!

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