The Question Is: Will They Spell it Hahvud?
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) _ Harvard University, the first Ivy League school, has become the last to try to protect its name with a trademark after years of seeing it emblazoned on sweatshirts and other goods around the world.
Under new licensing procedures, towels, watches and boxer shorts for the Crimson may still be allowed.
But string bikinis? Maybe not.
″We just don’t want it to be outrageous,″ said Ellen Mitchell of the Harvard Office of Patents, Copyrights and Licensing. ″We don’t want to look silly.″
More than 100 U.S. colleges and universities already issue licenses for the use of their names, including the seven other Ivy League colleges, according to the office of Robert Scott, vice president for finance.
Margot Naulleau, international licensing coordinator for Champion Products Inc., one of the main suppliers of athletic wear with college insignias, said Harvard - America’s oldest college - was one of the last major schools in the nation to seek a trademark.
″It’s simply that we are very old and very conservative. It took us a long time to decide if it was something that we ought to do,″ said Joyce Brinton, director of the Harvard patent office. She said there was no incident that led to the decision to apply, such as a particularly egregious product on the market.
″It was just that the time has come,″ she said.
Before the Harvard Corporation decided in June to apply for a trademark on their name from the U.S. Patent and Trademarking Office, Brinton’s office had inquiries from many manufacturers about getting a license.
Brinton said the trademark has not yet been approved but she didn’t anticipate any problems.
″I think most of the companies have felt uncomfortable that they don’t have a license from Harvard,″ she said. Those companies worried about being left with hundreds of products if the school’s lawyers suddenly cracked down, she said.
Harvard ran a few trial programs before moving toward licensing on a broad scale. At the school’s 350th anniversary in 1986, Harvard wanted to ensure commemorative items were of high quality. Another program licensing the trademark in Japan has been booming, bringing in $130,000 in royalties annually.
Under the new licensing procedure, if someone wants to make a product bearing the name Harvard, Harvard University, or the school’s insignia, he must first show designs and samples to demonstrate the quality of the product before Harvard will grant a license.
And the cost of renting the Harvard name? A bargain, Mitchell said. Brinton said companies that market Harvard products pay a flat fee of $300 and sales royalties of 7 1/2 percent.
Only a few licenses have been distributed so far. After a couple of years, officials expect from $300,000 to $500,000 to come in a year. But with an endowment of some $4.5 billion, the income from licensing is a drop in the bucket.