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My Pants are Smarter than Yours

Posted in Trademarks

–Sharon Armstrong, Attorney

Harvard, celebrated as the birthplace of the American university, collegiate tomfoolery, and Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones’ friendship, has done what every second celebrity seems to be doing these days by starting its own clothing line, aptly named Harvard Yard.

It’s certainly nothing new for universities to license use of their names in connection with t-shirts, baseball caps, and even cut glass stemware. Such paraphernalia provides college students, alums, and fans with instant spirit wear for the next football game and is lucrative enough to guarantee numerous colleges millions of dollars a year. Adding to the sweetness is the fact that for every $35 sweatshirt a university sells, its purchaser is providing the school with countless moments of free advertising.

So what’s really notable about Harvard’s recent partnership with Wearwolf is the fact that the neither the HARVARD name nor the university logo will appear anywhere on the pair’s clothing line.

Instead, the line will feature upscale menswear, including tailored dress shirts, fine wool sweaters and, dare I say it, fancy pants, all of which will bear the most subtle of Harvard touches – buttonholes, collar plackets and the like all in the shade of crimson. For the uninitiated, the use of crimson is a fine bit of self-reference, as Harvard’s mascot is the Crimson.

What’s equally interesting about Harvard’s creation of the line is the speculation behind Harvard’s reason for entering this line of business. Apparently, the blogosphere has gone wild about Harvard Yard, with some stating that the line “screams old-school elitist” and others theorizing that the line is a creative solution to the havoc wreaked on Harvard’s endowment by the recession.

In truth, the Harvard created the line to supplement financial aid, a fact that has been reported but has done little to quell the criticism launched at the university. One wonders what the detractors would think if they knew that, back in 2007 and long before university endowments and 401(k)s went on a freefall, Harvard filed an intent-to-use application for HARVARD YARD in connection with finer cuts of clothing.

  • Randall Hull

    Fancy pants indeed. Somehow I cannot see Tommy Lee Jones wearing the line.