Ukraine fundraising initiatives illustrate the positive power of the trademark community

From Brand Action for Ukraine to job support and lawyers rocking out to help those affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, recently established initiatives serve as a reminder of the positive power that can be wielded by the trademark community.

Earlier this month we reported on a new initiative, Brand Action for Ukraine, which was launched with a view to raising funds to provide meaningful on-the-ground help to the people of Ukraine. The initiative is powered by a team of trademark community volunteers, specifically Phil Cox, founder of Phil Cox – Business Development for IP Attorneys, Taras Kulbaba, managing partner of Brussels-based law firm Bukovnik & Kulbaba IP Guardians, Jackie Stelling, owner of JMS Legal, Bri Van Til, director of Education at Alt Legal,  and Alexis Winslow, founder of Twill Creative.

After Russia invaded the Ukraine in February, Kulbaba started raising funds, sourcing aid and regularly driving 1,500km to personally deliver supplies to the Ukraine-Poland border. US-based Cox, meanwhile, was watching events unfold form afar and wondering what he could do to help, when it dawned on him that the trademark community was set to gather in Washington DC for INTA’s Annual Meeting Live+. A team of volunteers subsequently assembled to formulate plans for a fundraising event in the city. On Tuesday 3 May 2022 a cocktail reception will be held and benefit two charities: World Central Kitchen and Support Hospitals in Ukraine.

Kulbaba tells WTR: “When we started discussing the potential fundraiser, we agreed that if we were to go for it, the beneficiaries of donations should be charities that make a real impact in Ukraine. When people and companies give money to large organisations, they often donate to relief projects in Ukraine or ‘other similar situations’, which means no one can be certain that their donation will be spent on Ukraine. Before making a decision on charities, then, we had to make sure that our project would help Ukrainians”.

The selected organisations – chosen from a longlist of more than 30 projects – deliver medical supplies to hospitals in Ukraine and food and water direct to people fleeing the conflict.

Brand Action for Ukraine has been (and is) seeking support in a number of ways. The first is through sponsorship. Caribbean IP was the first firm to support the initiative as a ‘Swan’ sponsor, and the firm’s Katherine Van Deusen Hely told WTR this week how it got involved: “Our friend Phil Cox reached out about the Brand Action for Ukraine event in the early days to see if our firm would be willing to sponsor. Without hesitation, my partner Patrick and I said ‘absolutely’. The situation in Ukraine is incredibly heartbreaking to watch. I’m thrilled that the Brand Action planning team took the initiative to create an opportunity for those of us attending INTA to come together and support the people of Ukraine, which includes many friends and colleagues from our trademark community.”

Ware Fressola Maguire & Barber is also a sponsor, and partner Steve Cooper explains: “I have gotten to know Phil and Taras over the past few years through our involvement in INTA, and when I heard they were organising fundraising efforts with Brand Action, I knew I needed to get involved in their efforts to rally the IP community to tangibly aid of the people of Ukraine.  We have all been horrified and heartbroken by what has transpired in Ukraine.”

The roster of sponsors has grown in the time since with – at time of writing – support also coming from Thompson Coburn, Blank Rome, Federis Intellectual Property Law, Corsearch, Trademarks OnPoint, Oppenheim and Irwin Mitchell.

Other ways to support the initiative are to purchase tickets for colleagues and clients to attend the fundraising cocktail reception (tickets being tax deductible in the United States). or to make direct donations to the two selected charities.

Asked to reflect on the response so far, Cox says: “Given that we were only able to go live a day before the Easter weekend, it has been fantastic. We have had sponsors finding us and coming in every day. We’ve had a big jump in ticket sales and hope to sell all the tickets by next Friday if we can. Some people have been donating more for their tickets than requested, which is inspiring and shows how people want to give to the cause.”

The team has is also introducing a new sponsorship option, a bluebird level for donor matching: “Through this, firms or individuals can match whatever donations we collect on the night, but cap the maximum amount they would match. We are asking these sponsors to match donations starting at a minimum $1,000 cap, but up to whatever level they want. If we can get 10, 20, or more firms to commit to the lower level, we believe we can generate a lot of aid for hospitals in Ukraine and food for those in need.”

He concludes: “Because of the unbelievably tight deadline we have been working on to get this together, we need help from everyone in the community to get the word out more. So please share through social media, email your friends, and do whatever you can to help.”

Positively, Brand Action is not the only community initiative to support those affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In March INTA urged its members to support the humanitarian needs of Ukrainian refugees, launching a dedicated donation portal which benefits two non-profit organisations: UNICEF-Ukraine (which provides children with access to safe water, nutrition, health care, education, and protection) and World Central Kitchen. Earlier this month, the association also called on its European member organisations to collaborate with it in publicising job opportunities that may be appropriate for professionals who are among the millions of refugees who have fled Ukraine.

INTA CEO Etienne Sanz de Acedo noted that, with many Ukrainians leaving the country and “struggling with starting over and an unknown future for themselves and their families… new beginnings usually include a new job” and that the community can offer important support.

This is an initiative that the community should support. The Brand Action for Ukraine website offers a range of pieces authored by Ukrainian IP lawyers, which illustrate how the lives of fellow IP practitioners in the country have been upended.

Elsewhere, other fundraising events are taking place. For instance, Law Rocks Global is holding a Law Rocks for Ukraine benefit event on 5 May in Washington DC. The organisation, which runs battle of the bands fundraising events (said bands featuring law professionals who – in another universe –  would be living a life full of rock and roll, concert riders and screaming fans), promotes music education for underprivileged youth and raises funds for local non-profits. Its May event – which features Noise in the Basement (a three-time winner of Law Rocks DC, boasting Venable’s Andrew Price on lead guitar) – is raising funds for the US-Ukraine Foundation.

As the global trademark community prepares to gather en masse for the first time in three years, friendships will be renewed and much business will be done. This year, though, there will also be critical support given to those impacted by the invasion of Ukraine - whether through work-based support, charitable donations or the sponsorship of fundraising events. That is to be applauded. And it illustrates the positive power that the trademark community – our community - can wield.

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