Harvard Settles Website Lawsuit

The University averted a potentially costly legal battle yesterday, settling a trademark lawsuit against Powered.com, formerly notHarvard.com, on the day the trial was scheduled to begin.

In the settlement, Powered agreed to admit that its use of the notHarvard moniker constituted trademark infringement and diluted the Harvard name.

Powered also agreed to transfer ownership of the notHarvard domain name to the University on or before Dec. 15 and abandon its pending trademark applications related to the Harvard name.

Both sides said that they were glad the litigation is now behind them.

"We're glad to have it settled," said Paul Danziger, a lawyer for Powered.

"It was a good outcome," said University Counsel Diane Lopez.

"We're happy with the end result, which was their decision not to use the name and their acknowledgement that they should not have used the name," said University spokesperson Joe Wrinn.

Harvard was not awarded monetary damages in the settlement. The University asked for $75,000 when it first filed suit on July 31, but later dropped the claim in order to resolve the dispute more quickly.

The agreement was the result of negotiations between the University and Powered that have been ongoing since the lawsuits were filed in July. The talks have intensified during the last two weeks as the trial date approached, said Lisa Byrne, a spokesperson for Powered.

Both sides agreed in principle and signed the settlement late last week, according to Lopez.

The accord ended a tangled web of litigation that began when notHarvard, fearing a possible University lawsuit, sued Harvard on July 27, asking a court to preemptively declare that its name did not infringe on the University's trademark. Four days later, Harvard filed its own suit, alleging that notHarvard committed trademark dilution.

On Sept. 19, NotHarvard changed its name to Powered. It offered to transfer ownership of the notHarvard name to the University on Dec. 7, giving Powered time to adjust to the change.

At the time, the University vowed to continue the litigation, the name change notwithstanding. It wanted a "solution that's legally enforceable," instead of merely "an individual's promise," according to Wrinn.

This settlement accomplishes that goal, Wrinn said.

"Now we have a judgement on the part of the court agreeing with us," Wrinn said. "It will be more useful if something like this comes up in the future."

Professor William W. Fisher, who teaches a course on intellectual property at the law school, said the University had a strong position going into trial and came out ahead as a result of the settlement.

"Harvard went into this discussion with a leg up--they probably didn't have to give up anything," Fisher said. "Most often, settlement arises because parties on both sides are reluctant to keep paying their lawyers."

Powered claimed that the notHarvard name was merely an internal code name that stuck and said it had been planning to change its name since early May.

The whole dispute was "an amazing case of bad timing," according to Mark Gonzales, acting vice president of marketing for the company.

The signed settlement was submitted in U.S. District Court yesterday and awaits final approval by Judge Reginald C. Lindsay.