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Statewide nonprofit Able SC sues treasurer’s office

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Statewide nonprofit Able South Carolina (Able SC) has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the S.C. Office of the State Treasurer in regard to the office’s use of the names South Carolina Able and SC ABLE in marketing a savings programs for individuals with disabilities.

Able SC said in a news release that the Columbia-based nonprofit organization filed the suit after repeated contact from consumers and legislators who mistakenly believed Able SC to be the SC ABLE savings program. The nonprofit, founded in 1994 and operating under the name Able SC since 2012, works for disability rights and social change in the state.

SC ABLE is a savings program launched by the state treasurer’s office in 2016 that helps disabled individuals save and invest money without jeopardizing public benefits.

"As an organization led by a majority of people with disabilities, Able SC fully supports this savings program,” Able SC executive director Kimberly Tissot said in the release. “In fact, we advocated for the national and state legislation to pass.”

The release said the lawsuit is a “last resort after multiple unsuccessful attempts at negotiations for a compromise.”

“Our mission in filing this lawsuit is to protect our consumers, the individuals with whom we work daily,” Tissot said. “Our job is to empower individuals with disabilities to live self-directed lives and to teach them how to advocate for their rights. The treasurer’s decision to market the program as ‘SC ABLE’ has created widespread confusion among the people the law is designed to help. Adding this level of confusion over something as simple as a name brings an unnecessary road block on their journey to do just that.”

The suit contends that Able SC has had to expend time and resources helping people with disabilities understand that Able SC has no role in overseeing the savings program and in helping people contact parties who do in the treasurer’s office. Able SC also said it has had state legislators contact the nonprofit to ask it to help sign up constituents for the savings program.

“We have two great programs,” Able SC board chair David Dawson said. “Our goal is to ensure that persons with disabilities are able to find the information and services they need.”

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