Harvard’s “Celebrity Name” Problem

It’s time for The Game T-shirts, the semi-official garments issued by Harvard and Yale to commemorate their annual football game, which takes place this upcoming weekend.

There was apparently a snag. Natasha Thondavadi of the Yale Daily News reports that:

After submitting the shirt design to the Dean’s office and the Yale licensing office, the FCC was asked to consult with Harvard Licensing, said Nathan Kohrman ’15, chair of the Freshman College Council. “After a week of us navigating the licensing bureaucracy to little avail,” Kohrman said, “Harvard ultimately told us that they in fact took issue with our use of celebrity names in conjunction with their name.”

The shirt originally featured Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates “liking” a Facebook post about dropping out of Harvard. The new version replaces Gates and Zuckerberg with a sentence reading “people who like this also like Social Networks, Personal Computers and Roads Not Taken.”

Now Harvard doesn’t appear to have any special rights to the names Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg (hell, the people aren’t even technically alumni) but it’s a gentleman’s agreement here, so all is well that ends well (though the edited version seems a little lame to me).

Here’s the original design for the front of the T-shirt:

YaleShirt

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer