OUP bids to trademark the word ‘Oxford’

OXFORD University Press has applied to trademark its ‘brand’ ahead of Brexit.

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

The Oxford Mail reported that the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) had initially ruled “that the city’s name could not be trademarked, however, OUP has since offered evidence that the term ‘Oxford’ is sufficiently associated with the university for the mark to be granted. Oxford University has previously said it would not take legal action against everybody who uses the word Oxford.”

OUP said: “This does not stop people, residents, and organisations from using the word ‘Oxford’ for a wide range of other initiatives and activities. We will only pursue legal action if we believe our rights are being infringed, or if organisations are trying to trade on OUP’s and the university’s reputations, and mislead the public into thinking their products and services emanate from us.”

It is understood that the colleges have not debated or decided the proposal.

Oxford is home to two universities and among over 300 businesses, organisations and institutions with “Oxford” in their title. Some of these include the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics and the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life, which lodged a formal complaint to the IPO.

They said in their submission: “Oxford was a town before the university. It is much more than the university. Academic institutions have flourished in the City of Oxford unconnected with the university and have identified themselves as Oxford originated and based. They have gained international reputations on their own account.”

They added that such independent institutions benefit the university by providing tutors, supervisors, libraries, and other academic resources that benefit the work of the university.

They said that when universities are moving towards greater collaborative efforts trademarking “Oxford” by the University of Oxford is a retrograde step.

“The University of Oxford’s unique status is well protected internationally and cannot be easily compromised. The University is only one institution. It cannot claim geographical sovereignty for all educational purposes,” they added.

In addition, they pointed out that over 300 institutions and businesses in the City’s phone book have Oxford in their title.

“Oxford is a city known throughout the world. Weetabix is a trademark. The two cannot be made equivalent,” they claimed.

The bid for the trademark was lodged last October by OUP in the name of the Chancellor (Lord Patten of Barnes), and the Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford, trading as Oxford University Press,

But one member of an Oxford institution wrote: “We know from the IPO that OUP has been targeting educational establishments with the word Oxford in them. It is a longer term concern for many places.”

Layla Moran MP for Oxford West and Abingdon and Robert Courts MP for Witney whose constituencies include Oxford organisations have been contacted by several residents, businesses and organisations, said they were aware of the strength of feeling.

Layla Moran said she shared their concerns and would be making representations and objections.

The IPO has extended to 19 January the period to lodge objections at Trademark.Examination@ipo.gov.uk.