Oxford University Gets Opposition To Its Attempt To Trademark 'Oxford' For All The Things

from the before-the-cart dept

Fresh off our post discussing the EU refusing the famous St. Andrews Links golf course a trademark for "St. Andrews" due to that term being primarily a geographical location, we have a similar situation in Europe centering around Oxford University's attempt to trademark "Oxford" for a whole swath of categories. And, just to make what might seem like a banal trademark opposition a little more spicy, much of this has to do with Brexit.

The university wants to trademark the city's name on more than a hundred products from stickers and pencils to DVDs and bibles.

However the move has sparked concern that if granted, makers of maps, tickets, newspapers, journals and 122 other goods could potentially face a bill for using the word ‘Oxford’ in the wrong way.

The application to the Intellectual Property Office has so far garnered three objections.

And that number is likely to grow, with several objectors thus far essentially running to the press in a call to arms for anyone who could be targeted by the university if this application is granted. All of the objections make the same argument: Oxford was a city before it was a university and locking down the name of a city for broad categories such as those requested in the application is a big no-no in the EU. Just like in the case of St. Andrews, this makes sense. If the application is granted, it could be used as a weapon by Oxford University to keep any shopkeeper in Oxford from selling stickers with the word "Oxford" on them. That obviously isn't the point of trademark law.

Interestingly, however, the school already has a trademark in the EU. It probably never should have been granted one. This trademark application is for the UK, as the school attempts to get its business in order in anticipation of Brexit.

Oxford University Press (OUP), a division of the university, lodged the application in October as the world-renowned institution looks to sure up protection of its 'brand' ahead of Brexit.

The university currently has a trademark in the EU, however, if the UK withdraws, as is currently planned in March, a new trademark would have to be sought for the UK.

It would be nice if the UK IPO could handle this better than the EU, actually, and recognize the problems of granting a trademark for a school that itself is named after the town in which it resides.

For its part, Oxford University is making a lot of noise about its promise not to keep people from using the term "Oxford" and to only go after other entities that are "infringing on its rights." That's the whole rub, of course, in that after the trademark is granted, legal teams far too often err on the side of protectionism, including in cases where protectionism isn't warranted.

The EU got this one right with St. Andrews. Hopefully the UK gets it right as well.


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  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Dec 2018 @ 7:16pm

    Hoping against hope

    Hopefully the UK gets it right as well.

    Hope springs eternal. What are the odds? How many things has the UK gotten right in recent memory? I am not sure, maybe some, but the list of horrible's is fairly long.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gary (profile), 17 Dec 2018 @ 7:16pm

    The shoes?

    Wait I thought Oxford was a kind of shoe. I'm a consumer and I am confused by this! The college should change its name.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 18 Dec 2018 @ 3:35am

    I used to buy "oxford cloth" shirts back in high school (1960s) and since. I'm pretty sure the cloth wasn't from the Oxford U. looms (even if every student there wore such shirts as well(?)).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      SpanglePants the Mildly Magnificent, 18 Dec 2018 @ 4:57am

      Re:

      The cloth is from Scotland. But they named that particular cloth after Oxford Uni. There're also Cambridge, Yale, and Harvard cloths from Scotland.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2018 @ 3:52am

    Morris OXFORD, Morris Cowley

    Pretty sure those two cars were fine to be named after the factories they were manufactured/assembled in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      SpanglePants the Mildly Magnificent, 18 Dec 2018 @ 5:02am

      Re: Morris OXFORD, Morris Cowley

      To be fair, the Morris Oxford was made in Oxford because Morris went to Oxford Uni (he was the founder of Nuffield College).

      And Cowley is in Oxford.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2018 @ 1:52pm

        Re: Re: Morris OXFORD, Morris Cowley

        The Morris Oxford had an export model that went down under, but nobody thought to increase the size of the radiator, so it boiled over with infuriating regularity. There's a huge difference between 43 degrees Fahrenheit and 43 Celsius. Morris did however learn from the experience of sending vehicles to dusty countries, thus it had a quite effective oil-soaked filter to keep dust out of the air intake.

        Unfortunately, Australian sunlight is brutal to the wooden steering wheels so they fell apart eventually.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Angus, 18 Dec 2018 @ 8:08am

    The other Oxford's out there might also have something to say.

    Oxford MD is a nice little town on the eastern shore of Maryland that has done nothing wrong.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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