In China, “Bell Johnson,” who sports a mustache and furrowed brow in a black-and-white portrait, has been placed on flyers for Megee, a water heater company based out of the Guangdong Province.
Earlier this year, retailers who sell Megee products began hailing “Johnson” as the president of Harvard University. The logo carries the University’s name in both English and Chinese. The “v” in Harvard is set against a triangular background reminiscent of the American flag.
Here in Cambridge, Harvard administrators have taken notice.
Director of Harvard Trademark Program Rick Calixto said that an individual living in China brought the flyer to the University’s attention three or four weeks ago.
“We routinely get these sorts of tips from people around the world,” Calixto wrote in an e-mail, and “then proceed to take whatever action the University deems is warranted.”
Calixto declined to comment further on the case since it is presently under investigation.
A Megee representative, who requested that his name not be printed, said he acknowledged that the title of Harvard president has been misused but maintained that his company was not responsible.
“It’s true that some sales assistants advertised inappropriately,” the representative said during a phone interview. “But they are not from our company.”
He added that while Megee created the image of “Bell Johnson,” the retailers who carry his company’s products are responsible for giving him the title of the University’s highest office.
While the representative said that his company was not responsible for giving him the title of the University’s highest office.
While the representative said that his company was not responsible for naming Johnson Harvard’s president, he said that Megee registered the use of the Harvard name as early as 2001.
And the company states that “Harvard” is a legal brand name issued by the Chinese government’s trademark office for its use.
The company’s Web site highlights sections such as “Harvard in Beijing,” “Harvard’s History and Future,” and “Harvard’s Brand in China,” which all lead to pages with information about Megee, not Harvard.
James G. Ashe, who works for the Harvard Trademark Program, said that Harvard “does not necessarily have to have the trademark registered in all goods and services in order to protect the mark from unauthorized use.”
Last month, Harvard won a lawsuit against a Philippines-based jeans company that printed “Harvard Jeans USA, Cambridge, MA, Established 1936” on apparel without license from Harvard, even though the University has not registered trademarks there.