New College of the Humanities again

December 5th, 2011 by Edward Capewell

Some readers may recall my earlier post back in June about Professor Anthony Grayling’s New College of the Humanities. I referred in that post to “grumpy communications from academics at another ‘New College’” which was a reference to the fact that New College Oxford, founded in 1379 by William of Wykeham, had declared itself ‘grumpy’ at the use of its name by this relative newcomer to the world of higher education. BBC News is today reporting that New College Oxford is awaiting a decision by the Intellectual Property Office on an application it has made under the Trade Marks Act 1994 for its name – ‘New College, Oxford’ –  to be a trade mark. Apparently there is a similar pending trade mark application in respect of the name ‘New College of the Humanities’. It is not known which will be determined first, although according to the BBC, New College, Oxford may seek to challenge the registration of the New College of the Humanities.

New College, Oxford was of course itself once the newcomer. Founded by Wykeham as “the college of St Mary of Winchester in Oxford” it very shortly thereafter became known as ‘New College’, rather than St Mary’s College, because there was already a ‘College of the Blessed Virgin Mary’ which had been founded some 53 years earlier in 1326. By one of those happy accidents of history there is now no St Mary’s College in Oxford. The college founded in 1326 is now ‘Oriel College’. I for one don’t know whether there was any dispute in the fourteenth century over names, but one can be pretty confident that if there was, it didn’t involve the Intellectual Property Office.