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As if scrambling for funding and fulfilling their missions weren’t hard enough, major charities such as the American Cancer Society and the Make-A-Wish Foundation also have to fend off pesky copycat outfits infringing on their trademarked names. Bill Dalton, general counsel for the American Cancer Society, says that the society is suing the American Breast Cancer Society for trademark infringement. He’s afraid that consumers who get the ABCS’ phone pitches may think they’re giving money to the American Cancer Society. “We want the money that the public wants to send to the American Cancer Society to go to the American Cancer Society,” he says. “It’s a typical story in that it’s a very small organization that is either innocently or not innocently using a name that is very similar to ours.” The American Breast Cancer Society appears to be based in East Northport, N.Y., but repeated calls were not returned. Dalton says he believes that the group was changing its name, but that he has no more information. “We never know if the motivation is good or bad,” he says. “We’re not concerned with motivation. We’re concerned with confusion to the public.” Some infringements are innocent mistakes, easily corrected. The American Heart Association, for instance, once asked race-car designer and driver Carroll Shelby to change the name of his children’s foundation, Carroll Shelby’s Heart Fund, to something less similar to the AHA’s Heart Fund, the group’s main fund-raising body since the 1950s, for the same reasons cited by Dalton at the ACS. David Livingston, AHA vice president and corporate counsel, said that Shelby renamed his group the Carroll Shelby Children’s Foundation. The Make-A-Wish Foundation in Phoenix, however, faces greater challenges. Vice president and general counsel David Mulvihill says that his employer gets complaints “at least once a week” about telemarketers implying that they represent the foundation. The telemarketers allegedly browbeat consumers into donating money for “dying kids,” he says. Combating these groups is difficult, since they’re hard to find. But sometimes a consumer will forward a pledge form from the telemarketers to Make-A-Wish, allowing Mulvihill to track down the offenders. He’s litigated against two organizations already and is contemplating additional actions, but declined to identify any of the groups he’s looked at. He also monitors where complaints originate and works closely with state attorneys general. “Let me be clear,” he says. “There are lots of wish-granting organizations that work very hard, but every field has a few bad apples.”

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