Ohio State Reportedly Files a Trademark Application on the Word “The”

By Kevin Harrish on August 13, 2019 at 8:07 pm
Ohio State is trying to trademark the word "The"

Ohio State's branding department knows no bounds.

The University has reportedly submitted quite an audacious trademark application, seeking a trademark on the definite article “The” for a clothing line.

Yes, you read that correctly. Ohio State is seeking a trademark on the most common word in the English language.

As Josh Gerben of the Gerben Law Firm – known for their expertise in trademark law – points out, Ohio State could run into a few problems with this application.

"In order for a trademark to be registered for a brand of clothing, the trademark must be used in a trademark fashion. In other words, it has to be used on tagging or labeling for the product," Gerden said. "In this case, just putting the word "The" on the front of a hat or the front of a shirt is not sufficient trademark use."

Ohio State spokesman Chris Davey confirmed the trademark submission in a prepared statement to the Columbus Dispatch.

“Like other institutions, Ohio State works to vigorously protect the university’s brand and trademarks,” Davey told The Dispatch. “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.”

Gerben predicts that Ohio State's application will be refused initially, but they will have a chance to submit a better application in the near future.

"It's a little surprising that the university would not have been a little bit more sophisticated in the specimens that they submitted with their application here," Gerben said. "It's sort of trademarks 101."

It's worth noting that apparel similar to what Ohio State describes already exist. Dozens of shirts featuring simply the word “THE” in scarlet and gray colors are on sale online from various vendors.

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