Social Enterprise UK challenges company attempting to trademark ‘Social Enterprise’


Peter Holbrook, CEO Social Enterprise UK has written to the large software and content management company, Salesforce, expressing concern about the corporate’s use of the term ‘social enterprise’.

Salesforce is using the term to describe its products and service and making attempts to trademark ‘Social Enterprise’ in countries around the world.  Following complaints from its members SEUK has approached Salesforce.

SEUK has initiated talks with social enterprise networks across the globe, notably in the North America, about the launch of a campaign if further action is deemed necessary to protect the ‘social enterprise’ term on behalf of the global movement. 

Peter Holbrook said: 

“We’re mystified as to why Salesforce are attempting to trademark a term that has been used for well over a decade to describe a way of doing business that exists to tackle social and environmental problems, and is firmly on the radar of politicians and multinationals including Google, Microsoft, Virgin and PwC. 

“We’ve raised our concerns with Salesforce more than once and hope they’ll enter into a dialogue with us.  With the launch of Big Society Capital, the world’s first wholesale social investment intermediary, and the passing of the Social Value Act we’re on the cusp of social enterprise entering the mainstream vocabulary in the UK.  The social enterprise sector is only going to grow, both at home and abroad, and they’re likely to confuse people by using the term. 

“For Salesforce to jeopardise in anyway the social enterprise sector’s progress wouldn’t do much for their reputation.  We have taken legal advice and will take the necessary steps to protect the term social enterprise of behalf of all those in the sector.” 

Currently there is no legal definition for social enterprise in the UK.

 Read Peter's letter below. 


Paul Durdik, Director of Intellectual Property for

 Dear Paul, 

As you will know, social enterprises are businesses with a primarily social mission that reinvest the majority of their profits in pursuit of that mission. We are part of a worldwide movement. Our members are drawn from all industries and sectors in the UK. They and we are increasingly concerned about what is happening at Salesforce - your repeated use of the name of our sector to describe your products and service; your attempts to trademark Social Enterprise in countries around the world for this use. We hope you will understand that this is confusing to our customers and stakeholders, and therefore damaging to us all. 

We are not driven by public or private sector interests. Our sector is turning over billions and employing millions of people, creating wealth and social capital. The media and politicians in the UK and across Europe are increasingly interested in our movement for its practical, positive energy and ability to innovate. 

There is an annual world forum on social enterprise, there are government strategies on social enterprise around the world; there are social enterprise structures and organisations in all corners of the globe. In the UK we have achieved so much: the world's first wholesale social investment intermediary was launched here earlier this year, backed by the UK Government; we have just achieved a powerful piece of primary legislation - the Social Value Act, which applies to all public bodies in England and Wales. In the last couple of years we have received the support of Google, Microsoft, Deloitte, PwC, Ernst & Young, and many other leading multinational businesses. 

Confusion of the term ‘social enterprise’ and our cause at this time is dangerous to us and the people, communities and organisations we are trying to help. Yet you are repeatedly attempting to legally appropriate the term for private gain. To date we haven't felt the need for a legal framework as our sector is proud of its reputation for inclusivity, openness, creativity and collaboration. But many UK politicians are calling for such a legal interpretation. 

We would like to begin a positive dialogue with you, something I have tried to do in recent few months through numerous channels. My concerns have so far been brushed aside. 

I look forward to your response. 

Yours sincerely, 

Peter Holbrook
Chief Executive, Social Enterprise UK