MIT sues AOL over trademark

by Devin Foxall | 6/29/01 5:00am

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has filed suit against AOL-Time Warner Inc., claiming that the media conglomerate's new technology magazine infringes on the trademark of the university's alumni technology magazine.

The name of the new magazine -- "Fortune/CNet Technology Review" -- infringes on the trademark of "Technology Review, MIT's Magazine of Innovation," the suit claims, because both titles contain the phrase "technology review."

"[Our name] is our brand identity in the market place. It's how we're known," Lyn Chamberlin, the magazine's Vice President for Communications, said. The two magazines would compete, she said, "they're going for exactly the same audiences."

The suit, filed June 11 in U.S. District Court in Boston, does not seek damages.

"It's just a cease and desist," Chamberlin explained. If MIT wins, Fortune will have to change the name of its magazine, she said. However, Chamberlain told The Dartmouth that the company has no plans for the event of a loss.

"I don't know what happens if we lose, we go from there, I guess." She couldn't make any predictions, she said.

The new magazine is being launched by Time Inc., the division of AOL-Time Warner specializing in magazines, and CNet, an Internet company that provides information and commerce services for the technology industry.

"Our only comment at this time is that the case is completely without merit," said Caroline Plauche, the Communications Manager at Fortune.

The Technology Review is in a "quiet phase at the moment" regarding the suit, said Chamberlin, who declined to comment or elaborate on the details of the case.

There was discussion with AOL-Time Warner before the suit was filed, but Chamberlin would not comment on what specific steps were taken or what AOL-Time Warner's response was. Nor did she know the set date of the trial.

"Who knows?" she said. "I don't."

Technology Review has been published since 1899 and the name has been trademarked since 1958, Chamberlin said.

The magazine covers emerging technologies, mainly information technology, biotechnology and nanotechnology -- the creation of instruments on the scale of atoms and molecules.

The magazine's circulation has increased from 87,000 in 1998 to 275,000 currently.

"It's a major business to business magazine," Chamberlin said. "This is not an alumni magazine. It goes to our alumni, but this is not an alumni magazine."

The new magazine from Fortune/CNet, which came out in early June, is comprised of product reviews and articles about business trends and personal applications of technology, according to a Fortune press release.

It is sold on newsstands, distributed to Fortune's 830,000 North American subscribers and 370,000 of CNET's qualified, registered users, according to the press release. It will have a circulation of 1.2 million and will be published biannually.

R. Bruce Journey, Publisher and CEO of MIT's Technology Review, held various management positions at both Time and Fortune magazines, according to the Technology Review's website. Journey could not be reached for comment as of press time last night.