CASE DIGEST: Fredco Manufacturing v. President and Fellows of Harvard

G.R. No. 185917, June 01 : 2011




On 10 August 2005, petitioner Fredco Manufacturing Corporation (Fredco), a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the Philippines, filed a Petition for Cancellation of Registration No. 56561 before the Bureau of Legal Affairs of the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) against respondents President and Fellows of Harvard College (Harvard University), a corporation organized and existing under the laws of Massachusetts, United States of America. The case was docketed as Inter Partes Case No. 14-2005-00094.

Fredco alleged that Registration No. 56561 was issued to Harvard University on 25 November 1993 for the mark "Harvard Veritas Shield Symbol" for decals, tote bags, serving trays, sweatshirts, t-shirts, hats and flying discs under Classes 16, 18, 21, 25 and 28 of the Nice International Classification of Goods and Services. Fredco alleged that the mark "Harvard" for t-shirts, polo shirts,sandos, briefs, jackets and slacks was first used in the Philippines on 2 January 1982 by New York Garments Manufacturing & Export Co., Inc. (New York Garments), a domestic corporation and Fredco's predecessor-in-interest. On 24 January 1985, New York Garments filed for trademark registration of the mark "Harvard" for goods under Class 25. The application matured into a registration and a Certificate of Registration was issued on 12 December 1988, with a 20-year term subject to renewal at the end of the term. The registration was later assigned to Romeo Chuateco, a member of the family that owned New York Garments.

Fredco alleged that it was formed and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission on 9 November 1995 and had since then handled the manufacture, promotion and marketing of "Harvard" clothing articles. Fredco alleged that at the time of issuance of Registration No. 56561 to Harvard University, New York Garments had already registered the mark "Harvard" for goods under Class 25. Fredco alleged that the registration was cancelled on 30 July 1998 when New York Garments inadvertently failed to file an affidavit of use/non-use on the fifth anniversary of the registration but the right to the mark "Harvard" remained with its predecessor New York Garments and now with Fredco.

Harvard University, on the other hand, alleged that it is the lawful owner of the name and mark "Harvard" in numerous countries worldwide, including the Philippines.

The name and mark "Harvard" was adopted in 1639 as the name of Harvard College of Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A. The name and mark "Harvard" was allegedly used in commerce as early as 1872. Harvard University is over 350 years old and is a highly regarded institution of higher learning in the United States and throughout the world. Harvard University promotes, uses, and advertises its name "Harvard" through various publications, services, and products in foreign countries, including the Philippines. Harvard University further alleged that the name and the mark have been rated as one of the most famous brands in the world, valued between US $750,000,000 and US $1,000,000,000.

Harvard University alleged that in March 2002, it discovered, through its international trademark watch program, Fredco's website The website advertises and promotes the brand name "Harvard Jeans USA" without Harvard University's consent. The website's main page shows an oblong logo bearing the mark "Harvard Jeans USA" "Established 1936," and "Cambridge, Massachusetts." On 20 April 2004, Harvard University filed an administrative complaint against Fredco before the IPO for trademark infringement and/or unfair competition with damages.

Director Estrellita Beltran-Abelardo of the Bureau of Legal Affairs, IPO cancelled Harvard University's registration of the mark "Harvard" under Class 25. Harvard University filed an appeal before the Office of the Director General of the IPO. Subsequently, the Office of the Director General, IPO reversed the decision of the Bureau of Legal Affairs, IPO.

The Director General ruled that more than the use of the trademark in the Philippines, the applicant must be the owner of the mark sought to be registered. The Director General ruled that the right to register a trademark is based on ownership and when the applicant is not the owner, he has no right to register the mark. The Director General noted that the mark covered by Harvard University's Registration No. 56561 is not only the word "Harvard" but also the logo, emblem or symbol of Harvard University. The Director General ruled that Fredco failed to explain how its predecessor New York Garments came up with the mark "Harvard." In addition, there was no evidence that Fredco or New York Garments was licensed or authorized by Harvard University to use its name in commerce or for any other use.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Office of the Director General of the IPO.

Fredco filed a Motion for Reconsideration.

ISSUE: Whether Fredco Manufacturing had a better right over the trademark "Harvard" than Harvard?


CIVIL LAW: Property, Intellectual Property Rights

Under Section 2 of Republic Act No. 166, as amended (R.A. No. 166), before a trademark can be registered, it must have been actually used in commerce for not less than two months in the Philippines prior to the filing of an application for its registration. While Harvard University had actual prior use of its marks abroad for a long time, it did not have actual prior use in the Philippines of the mark "Harvard Veritas Shield Symbol" before its application for registration of the mark "Harvard" with the then Philippine Patents Office. However, Harvard University's registration of the name "Harvard" is based on home registration which is allowed under Section 37 of R.A. No. 166.