Ohio State wins long battle to trademark common English word: ‘THE’


To date, the university’s licensing program has generated more than $130 million in royalty revenue from approximately $1.3 billion in licensed retail sales, according to its website.

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The Ohio State University – or rather The Ohio State University – has officially secured the trademark rights to one of the most common words in the English language: “THE”.

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The school has been granted permission to use “THE” alone on all available apparel “through normal athletic and collegiate athletic channels,” the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office said this week. brands. The State of Ohio may include “THE” as the sole design on a shirt or hat, but the trademark symbol must always be visible on a tag or label.

The word – considered an English article – is important to the school and its sports teams known as the Buckeyes. It appears on the university’s seal and the word is welded in front of the school’s name when spoken as a badge of honor among its students, professional sports alumni, and other collegiate connoisseurs.

Ohio State sued to protect “the” after fashion designer Marc Jacobs filed a trademark application for the word on a sweater in May 2019. The school’s first attempt to trademark the word, which has served as a slogan on its clothing for the past 15 years. , was rejected in September 2019. The Trademark Office cited it as “simply…ornamental” and pointed to Marc Jacobs’ filing months before. Last August, college was pushed back once again, and the school and fashion house reached a settlement agreement.

The move drew attention beyond campus and alumni, including the nationally broadcast game show “Jeopardy!”. In an episode last year, contestant Courtney Shah landed her seven-day streak after responding, “What is Ohio State University?” when asked to identify the public university that filed a motion to file “the” on the clothing.

Trademarks are big business for the State of Ohio. To date, the university’s licensing program has generated more than $130 million in royalty revenue from approximately $1.3 billion in licensed retail sales, according to its website.

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