notHarvard, We Hardly Knew Ye

notHarvard, We Hardly Knew Ye

notHarvard, We Hardly Knew Ye

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
Sept. 20 2000 7:33 PM

notHarvard, We Hardly Knew Ye

Five months ago, Chatterbox posed the question: "Can Harvard Sue notHarvard.com?" That question is now academic, because notHarvard.com, an "eduCommerce" Web site dedicated to teaching consumers how to use stuff that they buy, just changed its name to ... uh ... wait, I had it here a second ago ... Powered. (The "ed" at the end of the name means "education.") The official line from notHar--whoops, Powered, is that this is an exciting new direction for the company. Here's how Judith Bitterli, Powered's CEO, put it in a company new release:

Advertisement

The name Powered, and our new logo and identity, are rooted in and will reinforce the beliefs that underlie the company--that individual power is dependent on education and that education leads to more empowerment--better decisions for individuals and more productive relationships between consumers and businesses. ... Powered more accurately reflects what we deliver to our clients and where we intend to go in the future.

Chatterbox didn't really buy this, so he phoned Bitterli. Wasn't this all really about caving in to Harvard? She insisted not. The name "notHarvard.com," she said, was originally no more than "a code name we gave the project" that somehow became "the name we launched with."  The new name, she said, was the result of an intensive branding exercise that began after the company finished its second round of funding in early May. But that would have been just a couple of weeks after Vasugi V. Ganeshananthan reported in the Harvard Crimson that Harvard was considering a lawsuit against notHarvard.com. (Click here to read the story, which prompted Chatterbox's earlier item.) Is that really a coincidence?

Chatterbox asked Bitterli whether she had any regrets about the name change. "Not at all," she said (not at all bitterly),

We view this as a transition to a company that has a very global perspective. Fundamentally, we believe in the power of education, and we believe that education powers commerce. This is a name to us that transcends markets. It's a much more grown-up name.

More to the point, it signals a transition to a company that will no longer be engaged in costly litigation against Harvard University. In July, notHarvard.com filed suit against Harvard in order to establish its right to the "notHarvard" name. The eduCommerce company had been alerted by a Boston Globe reporter that Harvard was about to pounce; by suing first, notHarvard.com could establish venue in Texas (where notHarv-whoops, Powered, resides) rather than Massachusetts (where Harvard resides). Harvard promptly countersued in Boston. Lawyers from the two sides are now trying to disentangle, and a settlement should occur soon. (Click here to read a Harvard Crimson story about the two lawsuits, and here to read today's Crimson news story on the name change. Both stories are by David M. DeBartolo.)

Chatterbox doesn't really blame notHarvard.com for caving; presumably they're in business to make money, not to spend it on lawsuits. Still, he's sorry the name has changed and sorrier still that we won't get to find out which side would prevail in a court of law. Meanwhile, he can report that the Web address "Harvard.com" still belongs not to Harvard University but to the Harvard Book Store, a private enterprise in Cambridge, Mass.