New College trademarks its name

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New College Oxford has succeeded in trademarking its name in response to the establishment of the New College of the Humanities, the ‘university college’ set to open its doors in autumn 2012.

The dispute began in the summer, when New College Oxford became worried that students might think they had “set up an offshoot in London”. The application to trademark their name was submitted after that of the New College of the Humanities (NCH), but was accepted just before Christmas.

The trademark protects the use of the name ‘New College Oxford’ and prevents other institutions using it for other purposes. The term ‘New College’ is too broad to be trademarked, and there already exist other ‘New Colleges’ such as those in Durham and Swindon.

The application of the NCH, although submitted in May 2011, was blocked by the Intellectual Property Office, though not formally rejected. The NCH, however, said that it was re-applying, and this time was “confident of success” despite the initial setback.

A spokesman from New College Oxford explained that the college had done “what it reasonably could and should do” and has “laid down a marker” to protect its name.

NCH says that “it was not a surprise that their trademark application was successful” and that it does not believe that “there will be any confusion between ourselves and New College Oxford” partly based on the fact that New College Oxford offers sciences as well as humanities. Yet New College Oxford still felt prompted to apply for a comprehensive trademark, something which the University as a whole has but that few colleges do.

The NCH, based in Bloomsbury, London, said it was not considering changing its name in order to attain a trademark, and that it believes that reapplication will be successful because “the idea has now been launched, and awareness is increasing, and the institution will be open with a full cohort of students by the time we reapply”.

The NCH is set to charge £18,000 a year, a figure which caused rancour and incredulity when announced, especially given the highly charged atmosphere surrounding the increase in tuition fees. It also does not officially have university or university college status, though it refers to itself as a ‘university college’ on its website. It is to prepare students for degrees from the University of London as well as “the unique New College of the Humanities Diploma”. However one university official wondered whether UCL would wish to grant “a cuckoo in the nest” any buildings, given that they would be in direct competition.

Students at New College Oxford were dismissive of any threat posed by the NCH with Freddie Fulton, a student at New College claiming “I’m not overly fussed about the name” and JCR President Oscar Lee believing that New College Oxford already had an “excellent reputation” and that greater focus should be given “to improve the college’s image for access purposes rather than worrying about competition from this new organisation”.

Another student also did not object to NCH in principal and welcomed the high fees, saying “It is a lot of money, but if people are willing to pay for it then go for it” and that “people will only pay for it if they think it is worth it, and no harm done at all, especially given the literally hundreds of alternatives that school leavers are presented with”.

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