Ohio State University has settled a rivalry that has spanned nearly three years. Only this time it wasn’t with another Big Ten School, it was with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Ohio State has officially registered a trademark for the most common word in the English language: “THE.”
Trademark attorney Josh Gerben first broke the news on Twitter.
Ohio State began to pursue a trademark in August 2019, after fashion retailer Marc Jacobs filed an application for the word a few months earlier.
Initial trademark applications by OSU were rejected by the patent office on the basis of the word being “ornamental,” and because Marc Jacobs’ prior filing, which OSU challenged
Marc Jacobs and OSU reached an agreement in August 2021 that would allow both parties to use the branding. Marc Jacobs is primarily high-end fashion, while Ohio State’s focus is on athletic and casual wear.
With the conflict settled, it still took the university almost another year to justify to the patent office that THE is more than an ornamental part of their massive brand.
What happens now that The Ohio State University has its trademark?
The trademark approval now gives Ohio State permission to use THE for “clothing, namely, t-shirts, baseball caps and hats; all of the foregoing being promoted, distributed, and sold through channels customary to the field of sports and collegiate athletics.”
“Ohio State is pleased to have received a trademark for THE on branded products associated with and sold through athletics and collegiate channels,” Ben Johnson, OSU senior director of media and public relations, said in a statement.
“THE has been a rallying cry in the Ohio State community for many years, and Buckeye fans who purchase official Ohio State gear support student scholarships, libraries and other university initiatives,” he said.
The university’s licensing and trademark program generates over $12.5 million a year in revenue for the school.
Anyone familiar with the Buckeyes has certainly heard the emphasis placed on “THE Ohio State University.” THE was first used on OSU merchandise back in 2005 and has stuck with the school ever since.
The trademark applies only to clothing, so you won’t have to pay a trademark infringement fine to Ohio State for using “the” in conversation.