Frequently Asked Questions on Use of Harvard's Name

June, 2002

Please refer to the full policy and guidelines for more detailed information.

1. Why a "use of name" policy? Why do I need permission to use the term 'Harvard' in the naming of my activity?

"Harvard University" is one of the most widely known and respected trademarks of any kind. The commercial fruits of this fortunate reputation are largely attributable to the contributions of many generations of faculty, students and staff, and therefore should be allocated for the benefit of the University as a whole. All members of the University and the institution as a whole benefit when its name is well used, and suffer when it is not.

Just as the University has recently increased its activities in policing unauthorized use of its name by third-parties, there has been an effort to ensure that use of the name within the university community is accurate and appropriate, and only where there is institutional accountability. This concern prompted adoption of a new "use of name" policy by the Corporation in 1998.

That policy changed the default assumption that many members of the Harvard community had prior to that time. Under the new policy, an activity can only be labeled as "the Harvard Project on XYZ" or "the Harvard Study of ABC" or anything similar under certain specific circumstances and only with advance permission of the Provost. In general, the individual work of one or several faculty members should not be labeled in a manner that suggests that there is institutional sponsorship or endorsement. In other cases, the most suitable name will often be in the form of "The Project on X at the Harvard School of Y," rather than "The Harvard Project on X." The Harvard Trademark Program is happy to work with members of the community to come up with the most appropriate name.

2. What standards does an activity need to meet in order to use "Harvard" alone (as opposed to, for example, "Harvard Law School", or "the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University") in its name?

In general, using "Harvard"(unadorned) in the name of an activity is appropriate when:

1. The program or activity is university-wide, meaning its structure and governance has substantial faculty involvement from faculty from at least three separate schools

2. It has institutional accountability in that it reports formally to university-wide officers, such as the President or Provost or a group of Deans from several Faculties.

3. There are not significant issues of confusion with activities elsewhere in the University (for example "the Harvard Project on Government" or "the Harvard Health Project" would raise concerns of this nature)

3. What names can be used if those standards aren't all present?

In most cases, the more appropriate name for an activity will refer either to the school at which it is based (with permission of that school's dean), or will not make any reference in the name to the university or a school. For example, "the Project on Water Pollution at the Harvard School of Public Health" may be appropriate, or in some cases, simply "the Project on Water Pollution".

In a few cases, where an activity is truly university-wide but does not quite meet the other standard criteria, approval has been given for the title "Project ABC at Harvard University." But because this uses the name of the University, as opposed to a school, this usage requires approval of the Provost.

4. Is there automatic "grandfathering"? What about programs that use predate the policy and have always used Harvard in their name?

There is no provision in the policy that automatically "grandfathers" all previous uses of "Harvard" in the name of an activity. The initial review of existing programs was left to the Deans of each Faculty; some names have been changed since the policy was adopted. Longer-term, the approach has been to permit continued usage for a period of time in some cases where a substantial history of activity exists, but to review for consistency with the policy as new activities of that project develop. So, for example, an activity that may not meet current standards for use of name, but was funded under a five year grant, might be permitted to continue the name for the period of the grant, but then modify the name when new funding was sought. These situations are handled on a case-by-case basis in collaboration with the Dean's designees at each school.

5. What about names of web sites and other electronic uses?

In general, the same standards are followed in naming web sites or other electronic uses. If a project is university-wide, its web address can be "". If it is based at a school, it generally should make reference to that in its electronic address (e.g.

The issue of confusion is also considered in web addresses, particularly when an "alias" is used. So, for example, no single activity has been permitted to use the web address "" or "". In some cases, general addresses of this nature (i.e. "" or "") have been organized as a "portal", with links to the web sites of all major activities in an area across the university.

6. Do the same rules apply to putting a "Veritas" or other Harvard shield on a publication, web site, etc?

The same general guidelines used in reviewing names apply to the use of any Harvard shield (e.g. use of a school's shield requires Dean's approval; use of the "Veritas" shield requires Provost's approval). In some cases, use of any shield is seen as conveying "official" approval at a higher level than use of the name alone might, and would not be permitted at all (e.g. a third-party vendor might be permitted to state accurately that "the Harvard Office of Human Resources is a client," but that vendor would not be permitted to reproduce a University shield next to that statement.)

7. Isn't it usually just easier and more convenient in many cases to use the simple label "Harvard"?

Although it may be seem convenient in some cases, ease of address or shortness of the name have not been considered sufficient to label a project "Harvard", or to approve a "" web address. Similarly, the fact that several individual faculty from more than one school, or from a school and several Harvard-affiliated institutions or hospitals has not been seen, in and of itself (without the other governance criteria outlined above), to warrant a "Harvard" label.

8. What about student organizations?

Names for student organizations that include the Harvard name or any other Harvard trademarks are used by permission of the University and, as a result, are subject to the standard of accurate representation contained in the University’s policy on The Use of Harvard Names and Insignias, which prescribes that “The University and its members have a responsibility to ensure that any implied association with the University [through the use of the Harvard name] is accurate.”  Therefore, before creating a name for a new student organization (or changing the name of an existing one), students should consult with the student organizations administrator or comparable student activities officer at their respective school in order to ensure that the resulting name is in accord with the standard of accurate representation and any supplemental guidelines the school may have in place for the naming of student organizations.

With the foregoing in mind, when considering the use of the Harvard name, students at the College are required to use “Harvard College” or “Harvard Undergraduate” in the name of any proposed student organization and must follow the College’s requirements to apply for and obtain recognition as an officially recognized student organization from the College’s Office of Student Life (  Recognized Harvard College student organizations should also take special care to ensure that in all print and electronic materials (including web and social media sites), it is made clear that they are an officially recognized student group of Harvard College: to accomplish that goal, the College recommends the use of the phrase “a student-run organization at Harvard College.”

Similarly, students at the graduate schools must also apply the standard of accurate representation when naming a prospective student organization (or changing the name of an existing one) and follow the guidelines provided by their respective schools to obtain official student group status.  They must make reference to the name of their graduate school in the name of their student organization and clearly identify themselves as an officially recognized student organization of their school in all print and electronic materials (including web and social media sites) that are created to represent their student organization and its activities.

For information about University-wide Student Organizations, please see:

9. The Guideline on Endorsements seem to say no one should endorse anything on Harvard's behalf. Is that right?

Because of the potential for misunderstanding, it is true that endorsements are generally disfavored. While someone can obviously make a personal comment (such as a review of a book reprinted on its cover), any such comments should be done only when it is clear they are personal opinions, and do not represent the institution in any way. So, the University virtually never permits a unit or an office to give an opinion of quality to be used by a third-party. When an individual wants to do so using his/her Harvard affiliation, some disclaimer (to the effect "in my personal opinion") must be part of any such quote.

10. Once an activity has permission to use "Harvard" in its name, can all its new or related projects also use the name?

Because projects must meet certain standards to use the Harvard name (see #2 above), in most cases it is not appropriate to use a similar label for smaller projects within university-wide initiatives. The fact that an activity comes under the rubric of a "Harvard Project on ABC" does not, in and of itself, warrant a separate label of "Harvard" for that activity. So, for example, in the case of a faculty working group within a university-wide interfaculty initiative, , it would be accurate and appropriate to use the name "Seminar on Foster Care of the Harvard Children's Initiative", but not "Harvard Foster Care Seminar"; similarly "Project on Memory of the Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative at Harvard University" would be appropriate, while "the Harvard Memory Project" would not.

11. This all seems very complicated. Who can answer questions about the application of this policy?

Questions regarding the University’s use-of-name policies and the application of those policies to the use of the Harvard name and insignia should be submitted in writing to the Harvard Trademark Program at In addition, each school has one (and in a few cases more than one) representative designated as a liaison for questions regarding the use of the school’s name and insignia by faculty, staff and students within that school. Those contacts are listed here.

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See also: Policies