Ohio State secures ‘THE’ trademark for clothing, merchandise after three-year legal battle

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Almost three years after filing an application, Ohio State University has secured the trademark for the word “THE” to use on branded products such as clothing and merchandise. The registration certificate was officially issued on June 21 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Trademark attorney Josh Gerben was the first to break the news.

Fashion brand Marc Jacobs also applied for the trademark, and it actually did so a few months before Ohio State applied in August 2019. However, last year both parties reached an agreement in which they can both own the registration and use the branding in their products.

After the settlement with Marc Jacobs, Ohio State still had legal hurdles to clear. The university had to wait another year to make the trademark official because it had to prove to USPTO that it was not “merely ornamental.” 

Ohio State senior director of media and public relations Ben Johnson told the Associated Press the university’s licensing and trademark program generates more than $12.5 million a year in revenue. That money helps fund student scholarships and university programs.

“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,” Johnson told the AP.

There is no doubt the Buckeyes take their words, and even letters, seriously. In 2019, Overtime Sports Inc. sued Ohio State after the university attempted to block the company from trademarking its letter “O” logo.

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