Royal Institution backs down on Christmas lectures

The Royal Institution has scrapped efforts to ask academics to sign an agreement if they want to use its trademarked term “Christmas Lectures”.

July 19, 2013

Christmas Lectures

The body told Times Higher Education that academics and universities promoting lectures at Christmas time would now not be infringing its trademark by using the term.

Earlier this year the RI registered the trademark in relation to its popular annual science events for young people, started in 1825 by Michael Faraday.

In May the organisation sent letters to a number of academics informing them that the institution had trademarked the description and requesting that “the name CHRISTMAS LECTURES or CHRISTMAS LECTURE should not be used for any event without our consent” to avoid confusing the public.

After a social media backlash, the Royal Institution revised its position, allowing organisers to continue using the expression “Christmas Lecture” if they became part of a “Christmas festival of science” by completing an online agreement with the body.

But this did little to assuage the uproar.

In a statement to THE on 19 July the RI said it had since “spent time carefully reassessing its position” as a result of the “unexpected negative reaction” it received to its letters.

The RI said it would not consider the use of the words “Christmas Lectures” by academic establishments, or those working in or for academic establishments, to infringe the RI’s rights to its trademark.

“We do not wish to obstruct the promotion by educational establishments (or those who work in the academic community) of educational events at Christmas time and apologise for any uncertainty and aggravation our previous correspondence has clearly caused to some,” it said in a statement.

By registering the trademark, the RI said it was seeking to prevent unauthorised third parties from profiting from their own use of the term. 

“In other words, we did not want third parties to commercially exploit ‘CHRISTMAS LECTURES’ (including use of this mark in a non-descriptive sense) and weaken or damage the Ri’s rights to CHRISTMAS LECTURES in the process. 

“We appreciate that use by academics to describe lectures held at Christmas time as ‘Christmas Lectures’ is unlikely to weaken or damage the Ri’s rights,” added the statement.

Mike Merrifield, professor of astronomy at the University of Nottingham, who organises science lectures at Christmas and had called the RI’s previous position “ludicrous”, said he saw the response as a fulsome apology that he hoped would draw a line under the matter.

elizabeth.gibney@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Research Assistant LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS & POLITICAL SCIENCE LSE
Lecturer in University Study Skills UNIVERSITY OF HAFR AL BATIN
Lecturer in English Language UNIVERSITY OF HAFR AL BATIN

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest