Letter from the Executive Director: Little Free Library’s Trademark

By Margret Aldrich

To the Little Free Library Community:

There have been a number of concerns raised about registered Little Free Library trademarks and the implications to the book-sharing community. We would like to take this opportunity to clarify things. Here are the facts.

Little Free Library Ltd (the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded by Todd Bol), does have a trademark on the word mark “Little Free Library.” It was applied for by Todd Bol on 2/12/2012 and was granted by the US Patent and Trade Office on 8/13/2013. The record can be found by searching the term at the US Patent and Trademark website www.uspto.gov. This trademark is not a recent action, but in fact happened more than seven years ago.

This trademark gives Little Free Library Ltd the legal right to protect its name and brand image to insure its continued success in meeting its nonprofit mission of getting books to people who have none. Success in this mission depends on our ability to be a reliable partner with other organizations. Our brand affirms that. The breadth of partners that work with us is a testament to the brand Todd Bol and the organization built.

Our only trademark concerns are with those that are selling, for a profit, products under our Little Free Library mark without our permission to do so. This policy is not new. What is recent is we have added new, specific classifications under the trademark that allow us to protect our brand on sales platforms such as Amazon and Etsy, among others. The mark has been registered for years.

The trademark is not a patent. Little Free Library has no legal right to any book-sharing box design or construction method. In fact we welcome those who wish to build their own book-sharing boxes by providing construction plans for free on our website along with a variety of videos that provide tricks and tips. And while we believe it is an advantage to register your book-sharing box with Little Free Library Ltd and become part of the global network of volunteer stewards, it is completely up to the individual.

A key tenet of Little Free Library Ltd’s operating philosophy is transparency in all of what we do. As a nonprofit, we only succeed in our mission with transparency. To that end, we invite you to look at our GuideStar nonprofit profile at www.guidestar.org where we have received their Platinum Ranking for Transparency. There you will find our federal tax returns, which are the foundation for our annual financial audits. We apologize if you feel we were duplicitous or secretive about our trademark policy. That was not our intent. However, we will not allow unauthorized, short-term profit-seekers to use the Little Free Library Ltd protected trademarks for personal gain.

We welcome organizations that would like to join us in our mission. There are a variety of ways we work with organizations, be it joint partnerships or licensing arrangements. And of course, we depend on our feet on the street, our amazing steward volunteers. Literacy and book access is a huge issue. There is plenty of work to be done. Will you join us?

Yours sincerely,

Greig Metzger
Executive Director, Little Free Library

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