Initial Complaint

September 16, 2019
The Encyclopædia Iranica Foundation Asserts its Ownership of Encyclopædia Iranica

New York – The Encyclopædia Iranica Foundation has filed a lawsuit against Columbia University; Dr. Elton Daniel, Director of the Ehsan Yarshater Center for Iranian Studies at Columbia University; and Brill, the global publishing firm.

The lawsuit filed in the District Court for the Southern District of New York seeks to enforce the Foundation’s legal rights, including trademark infringement, trademark counterfeiting, trademark dilution, conversion, unjust enrichment, and other acts of unfair competition under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1501 et seq., and the New York Unfair Trade Practices Act, tortious interference with contract and prospective economic advantage, as well as other claims under the laws of the State of New York and common law.  A full copy of the complaint can be viewed here: Complaint

On August 9, Columbia University sued the Foundation, accusing it of falsely claiming to be the copyright owner of the Encyclopædia Iranica. Columbia’s complaint misstates the facts and lacks merit. The University filed its suit shortly after the Foundation rightly asserted its legal ownership to the copyright in the Encyclopædia, to the trademark in the Encyclopædia Iranica name, and to The Foundation intends to start a new chapter in the publication of the Encyclopædia; it will defend itself vigorously as it presses forward with its own complaint against the University.

Until his retirement in 2016, Dr. Ehsan Yarshater had been Director of the Center for Iranian Studies at Columbia University and Editor-in-Chief of the Encyclopædia for more than four decades. He founded the Encyclopædia Iranica Foundation in 1990 to ensure the permanent, uninterrupted publication of the Encyclopædia by providing funding through its endowment and donor gifts.

Since its inception, the Foundation has legally owned the Encyclopædia’s intellectual property and has contributed more than $40 million to Columbia University for its production and publication. As per its by-laws, the Foundation is solely responsible for selecting, at its own discretion, the institutional base of the Encyclopædia Iranica, whether that is Columbia University or any other reputable educational institution. 

Dr. Daniel, the Center’s current director and until recently the Encyclopædia’s Editor-in-Chief, spearheaded a campaign to force the Foundation to endow the Center, which would ensure financial independence from the Foundation with no accountability. In retaliation for the Foundation’s decision not to endow, Columbia University denied the Foundation access to its collection of artwork and books, as well as documents and financial records, stored on its premises. The University warned the Foundation that its ability to continue the Encyclopædia’s production would be blocked, internationally.

The University’s August 9 complaint against the Foundation is an attempt to further coerce the Foundation into relinquishing its intellectual property rights to the Encyclopædia, so that the University can consummate a contract with Brill for the print and online distribution of the Encyclopædia, a misappropriation of more than forty years of academically renowned work to which it has not made a single contribution.

The Foundation does not intend to allow the University to bully it into walking away from the Encyclopædia. The Foundation is keen to keep its financial supporters, academic contributors and users of the Encyclopaedia informed as this matter moves forward and will continue to post updates on this web page.

Please contact Steve DiMattia at 646-695-2881 with any questions or concerns about this matter.