25What's in a Name – and How Do You Negotiate It?

Anonymous contribution

Names are how organizations identify themselves to the world and how they convey quite a bit about the mission of the organization. The interesting thing about names is that they can be shared, to a degree. Sometimes, however, sharing a name causes more challenges than it is worth. So if two organizations share a similar name and have to negotiate, who gets to use that contested name and how do they go about figuring out that dilemma?

In this negotiation, two nonprofit organizations had very similar names that ended up being problematic and necessitated a change. One of the organizations had the trademark and the power. The other did not. The win-lose solution, therefore, appeared to be fairly simple. Yet in the end, with the help of a mediator, the parties reached an unexpected mutually beneficial outcome that required counterintuitive thinking, challenging assumptions, and a simple question.

Background and the Negotiation Challenge

This negotiation scenario was shared by someone who worked at a law firm and who was serving their client in a pro bono capacity. The client, who we will call Life Care International (LC), was involved in humanitarian work and the delivery of aid after natural disasters. LC engaged in work all around the world and deployed in rapid fashion to help those in need. They had been operating globally for many years without a problem.

At a certain point LC ended up in a major ...

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