[Foundation-l] What are the assets of the Foundation, anyway?

Florence Devouard Anthere9 at yahoo.com
Wed Apr 18 22:46:54 UTC 2007

Kelly Martin wrote:
> Delphine recently wrote:
>> I thought the projects and their content were free? Can't any
>> organisation, based anywhere in the world, just take the content and
>> start anew?
> The content hosted by the Foundation is not an asset of the
> Foundation.  In fact, the Foundation has (almost) no legal interests
> in it, and in fact almost anyone could pick it up and start using it.
> However, the Foundation nonetheless owns some very valuable
> properties: the names "Wikipedia" and (to a lesser degree)
> "Wikimedia", the wikipedia.org and wikimedia.org domain names, and the
> related service marks.  It is these that the Foundation needs to do
> much more to both protect and exploit than it has to date.
> If someone sues the Foundation, and wins, it is these properties
> (along with the Foundation's server equipment, which is worth a
> pittance in comparison to what wikipedia.org is worth) that will end
> up sold at auction.  The Foundation would be well-advised to
> restructure itself so as to put the brand "out of reach".  The normal
> means of doing this is to have the brand owned by a separate entity
> (usually a trust) which then licenses them to the operating charity.
> This way, even if the charity goes out of business for any reason, the
> brands remain safe and secure in the hands of the trust, out of the
> reach of creditors.
> IRS regulations make it quite difficult to disburse property which has
> been dedicated to a charitable purpose to any organization that is not
> recognized by the IRS as a charitable organization.  Thus, naming a
> Wikimedia chapter (other than the the non-existent US chapter) as a
> designated successor would require an IRS determination letter before
> any such dissolutionary transfer could take place.
> Both of these items would require specialized legal assistance to
> properly address, from attorneys skilled in US and Florida nonprofit
> and tax law.  Random babbling from the community is unlikely to be
> helpful here.
> Kelly

Yup. And this topic has actually already been raised by Michael. The 
conclusion was to wait till we hire a skilled lawyer.


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