The case concerned a dispute between Harvard University (formerly known as President and Fellows of Harvard College) (the “University”) and Harvard Club of Singapore (the “Club”), which was a recognised alumni club of Harvard University.
In May 2015, the University revoked the official alumni club status of the Club and withdrew its consent for the Club to use the University’s trade marks. Prior to the termination of parties’ relationship, the University applied to register “HARVARD CLUB OF SINGAPORE” and “HARVARD UNIVERSITY CLUB OF SINGAPORE” under Class 41 for “Club Services”. The application was opposed by the Club under (among others) Sections 7(6) (bad faith), 8(7)(a) (passing off) and 7(5) read with Section 4(3)(c) of the Societies Act (registration prohibited by written law) of the Trade Marks Act (“TMA”). It was undisputed that the University owned registrations for various trade marks in Singapore (including “HARVARD”), the goodwill in relation to the same belonged to the University and the parties were in a non-commercial relationship. Nonetheless, the Club submitted that it enjoyed the goodwill attached to the name “Harvard Club of Singapore” and not the University.