A business in Hampshire calling itself ‘Oxford Law School’, has been ordered to change its name and hand over its website domain to Oxford University following a ruling at the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court earlier this month.
Judge Janet Lambert found that the Eastleigh-based law school had attempted to “pass off” its courses as connected to the University of Oxford, and said that “there only has to be one bad or mediocre teacher, or one bad or mediocre course to impact on the university’s reputation”.
The ‘Oxford Law School’, which ceased trading in February 2013, had also changed its website design in 2012, after Oxford University complained of the use of similar fonts and colours. Furthermore, it placed a disclaimer on its site, explaining that the school was not connected to the University of Oxford.
The Judge said the website had “sought to recreate a look and get-up [of Oxford]… likely to deceive potential law students”, although she accepted that the school “served a slightly different market”.
Cherwell was unable to contact Mohammed Riaz, who is thought to have run the school from his home in Eastleigh, but speaking to the BBC News he claimed only “morons in a hurry” would mistake the school for Oxford University.
However, the Judge agreed with the university’s assertion that the “substantial majority of people” would be confused by the naming. She added, “I also do not accept that such people would fall into the category of being ‘morons in a hurry’”.
The university has reported a number of incidences in which students of the law school contacted Oxford University’s law faculty.
Georgia Harper, a second-year law student at Hertford College, told Cherwell, “It’s a difficult one. ‘Oxford’ is a place name at the end of the day, so it would probably be unreasonable for the university to block all other usage of the word. On the other hand, this school used not only the word ‘Oxford’ but similar fonts, colours and images to those used by the university, as if it were trying to unfairly piggyback on the university’s reputation, especially as the school is some distance from Oxford itself”.
A spokesperson for the University of Oxford told Cherwell, “The University is very pleased with the judgement of the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court”.