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Ohio State University wins legal battle to trademark the word THE

Ohio State University wins legal battle to trademark the word ‘THE’ for use on all Buckeyes merchandise – after striking agreement with designer Marc Jacobs to share the word

  • Ohio State University has won its legal fight to trademark the word ‘The’
  • US Patent and Trademark Office approved the university’s request Tuesday
  • School uses ‘The’ on its branded merchandise like T-shirts and hats
  • It is a reference to OSU’s full formal name under law: The Ohio State University
  • OSU struck a deal with fashion retailer Marc Jacobs to share use of the word ‘The’

Ohio State University has won its legal fight to trademark the word ‘The.’

The US Patent and Trademark Office approved the university’s request Tuesday, recognizing OSU’s claim to the definite article, one of the most common words in the English language.

The school says it allows Ohio State to control use of ‘The’ on branded merchandise associated with the school and its teams, such as T-shirts, baseball caps and hats.

Ohio State’s name was defined in an 1878 law as ‘The Ohio State University,’ and supporters of the school frequently insisted on using the full formal name as an expression of their loyalty.

Ohio State University has won its legal fight to trademark the word 'The' and will use the phrase on Buckeyes merch like the T-shirts seen above

Ohio State University has won its legal fight to trademark the word ‘The’ and will use the phrase on Buckeyes merch like the T-shirts seen above

Fashion designer Marc Jacobs (above) had filed an application for the word a few months before OSU, but the school and the retailer struck a deal to share usage

Fashion designer Marc Jacobs (above) had filed an application for the word a few months before OSU, but the school and the retailer struck a deal to share usage

For example, at the beginning of NFL games, ex-Buckeyes football players often emphasize ‘The’ when identifying themselves as Ohio State alumni during starting lineup announcements.

‘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,’ said Ben Johnson, the university’s senior director of media and public relations.

He noted the university’s licensing and trademark program generates over $12.5 million a year in revenue, which helps fund student scholarships and university programs.

Ohio State started pursuing a trademark in August 2019 after fashion retailer Marc Jacobs had filed an application for the word a few months earlier.

The company and the university reached a deal in August 2021 that allows both parties to use the branding.

Ohio State's name was defined in an 1878 law as 'The Ohio State University,' and supporters of the school frequently insisted on using the full formal name

Ohio State’s name was defined in an 1878 law as ‘The Ohio State University,’ and supporters of the school frequently insisted on using the full formal name

Established in 1870, OSU officially changed its name to 'The Ohio State University' in 1878

Established in 1870, OSU officially changed its name to ‘The Ohio State University’ in 1878

In 2015, OSU's then-head coach Urban Meyer had his name trademarked

In 2015, OSU’s then-head coach Urban Meyer had his name trademarked

The patent office initially rejected Ohio State’s initial application, finding the trademark appeared to be used for ‘merely decorative manner’ and as an ‘ornamental feature’ that didn’t appear to function as a trademark that would differentiate the items from others.

Ohio State has never been shy about trademarking names, words, and phrases associated with its football program.

In 2015, then-coach Urban Meyer’s name was trademarked, and that was followed a year later when the school trademarked ‘Woody Hayes,’ in honor of the football program’s most famous figure.

The school did attempt to trademark OSU in 2017, but Oklahoma State objected, naturally.

The two schools have since reached an agreement that allows both to use the acronym.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, Ohio State has 150 trademarks in 17 countries, not including pending applications.

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