– Draeke Weseman, Weseman Law Office, PLLC
A benefit corporation is the term used when a company is created under corporate law and should not be confused with a “B Corp,” which refers to a company that is certified by B Lab to meet specific standards for social and environmental performance.
Why Consider a Benefit Corporation? Doug Bend and Alex King, Forbes.com (May 30, 2014)
Starting on January 1, 2015, Minnesota businesses will have the option to incorporate in Minnesota as benefit corporations, a new type of for-profit entity that commits to pursue social goals. More than half of the states in the United States have enacted some type of legislation allowing for benefit corporations (Maryland was the first in 2010).
Benefit corporations arose in response to the growing demand for socially conscious businesses. The group largely responsible for the benefit corporation movement is B Lab, a 501(c)(3) non-profit formed in 2007 that evaluates and certifies businesses according to a stakeholder and environmental impact scorecard, while also acting as a public promoter and supporter of such businesses.
B Lab (through B Lab IP, LLC) owns several trademark registrations or pending applications for benefit corporation related marks, including the following:
On its website, B Lab describes its role as follows: “B Corps are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Today there is a growing community of over 1,000 Certified B Corps . . . .”
Despite this clear statement about B Corps and the certification provided by B Lab, no trademark applications or registrations exist for the truncated marks “B Corp” or “B Corps,” or for the certification mark “Certified B Corps.” Instead, the marks registered by B Lab are service marks applied to “association services,” business “testing, analysis, and evaluation,” and “quality assurance” services.
This is surprising because both B Lab and the companies adopting the B Corp certification routinely use variations on the B Lab marks while mentioning certification. For example, below is a screenshot from the B Lab home page, followed by a screenshot from Patagonia’s website, both using the truncated B Corp mark and both prominently using the unregistered “Certified B Corporation” mark: