- The Ri has recognised that the name Christmas Lectures for non-Ri events is very important to many science communicators.
- In their words, "The Royal Institution recognises the goodwill and hard work that goes into organising" Christmas Lectures around the country.
- The Ri has proposed that Christmas Lectures this year form part of a "Christmas Festival of Science." I think this is an excellent idea - as I mentioned in my original blog post. Anything which can raise the visibility of Christmas Lectures around the country is good news in my opinion.
- The Ri has set up a simple form which anyone can use and which is not in my opinion onerous.
- The Ri has assured me that anyone using this form and who is a bona fide science communicator and not seeking to profit from the Lecture will receive approval from the Ri.
- The Ri has realised that it approached the trademark issue in the wrong way, sending out heavy handed "nastygrams" (as one tweeter described it.)
- My friend received an email apology for the upset caused to her, which I know she was very grateful for, and which it was good of them to take a moment to do in the melee of events.
But it's not all good news. The Ri was quite right to move quickly to make these changes and I absolutely did not want to stand in their way. But I still have major criticisms of their position.
The Royal Institution still claims that they own the name "Christmas Lectures" as a trademark, and that it cannot be used without their permission. And that this applies even to a not-for-profit Christmas Lecture given by any science communicator. So they are still in the position that if you (for any reason) don't want to register your lecture, they claim you are infringing their trademark. The - absurd - endpoint of this is that they will have to sue you.
I absolutely am not a lawyer but I simply do not believe that the Ri trademark on a public and non-televised Christmas Lecture could possibly hold up if challenged. The words are generic, have been used by many many lecturers for decades, and no conscientious consumer could think that a Christmas Lecture at their local University had anything to do with the Ri. While the Ri persuaded the trademark office that they were entitled to the trademark, that is not an adversarial system with another side pointing out the ridiculous nature of their claims: if they sue anybody they will - I very much hope - be laughed out of court for some of these claims.
And even if I'm wrong about this - there's a very good chance I am - it is the only the Ri that cares. Obviously even if they are right legally, the hurt and insult and "land grab" (another tweeter's phrase) on the name Christmas Lectures was a totally unnecessary own goal.
It's so easy Ri, use the get out of jail free card I gave you yesterday. Withdraw the parts of the trademark claim relating to a public lecture. Please please please do that.
You have nothing to lose by doing so and a lot of goodwill to lose if you don't.