Ask Matt Turner …
Just How “Loudly” Can You Use Prestigious Names Like Harvard in Your Copy?

Health copywriter Sarah Clachar asks:

“Can I mention names of research institutions or journals that publish study results in my copy?

“Some successful copywriters advocate specificity when citing study results. Others say you can’t write things like, ‘Harvard researchers found that … ’ or ‘A study published in JAMA showed that … ’

“What’s allowable?”

AWAI Legal Expert Matt Turner: Legally, the statutes say you cannot “trade off another’s name” in a commercial context to sell your own goods. The case law on the subject, however, draws a more practical line for you.

My advice: Don’t start your letter with a headline like, “Harvard University Finds That My Product Rocks.” That would be a problem, as you’re using “Harvard” a little too loudly.

On the other hand, if, in a 10-page letter, you reference a Harvard study on page 4 to support your point, it’s fine. It’s all about context and the “velocity” of using another’s name.

Get more of the answers you need from Matt …

Copywriting Legalities

The Legalities of Copywriting Made Simple

Legal expert Matt Turner reveals the legal issues that can impact copy and marketing materials. Learn More »


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Published: July 9, 2009

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