U.S. Patent Office Says Ohio State Can't Trademark "The" for Branded Apparel, Merch
While Ohio State grads and students love to remind everyone that it is THE Ohio State University, it can't claim that it is THE owner of the word "The."
OSU filed an application for "The" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Aug. 8, which was shot down this week on the grounds that "the applied-for mark as used on the specimen of record is merely a decorative or ornamental feature of applicant's clothing and, thus, does not function as a trademark to indicate the source of applicant's clothing and to identify and distinguish applicant's clothing from others."
In other words, no matter how many former OSU players say "THE Ohio State University" when they introduce themselves in their NFL team's lineup, it's not actually an integral part of the university or team's identity beyond a folksy tradition.
JUST IN: The US Patent & Trademark Office has issued an initial decision on Ohio State's attempt to trademark the word "THE." They have refused the application.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) September 11, 2019
In Ohio State's defense, it really does use it more than any other university or team. Players and fans of rival schools have said it as a joke (looking at you, "THE Pennsylvania State University"), so Ohio State might have just gotten a little jumpy and wanted to make sure no one got the trademark before they could, or earned money from apparel that pokes fun at their tradition.
"Like other institutions, Ohio State works to vigorously protect the university's brand and trademarks," Ohio State spokesperson Chris Davey said, according to CBS Sports. "These assets hold significant value, which benefits our students and faculty and the broader community by supporting our core academic mission of teaching and research."
Basically, if anyone is going to trademark "The" it's going to be Ohio State. The university can at least rest assured that no other team could possibly trademark it, but it's still fair game for other schools to throw the word around willy nilly.
If it really wanted to, Ohio State has six months to respond to the refusal.
This news report was brought to you by Brendan Menapace, THE Promo Marketing Magazine.