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Ohio State awarded 'THE' trademark for certain apparel

The university received the trademark for "THE" on branded products associated with and sold through athletics and collegiate channels.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State University was awarded a trademark on the word "THE" by the United States Patent and Trademark Office this week.

The university received the trademark for "THE" on branded products associated with and sold through athletics and collegiate channels. Those products include hats, baseball caps and t-shirts. 

Credit: Ohio State/Nike

"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," a university spokesperson said.

The university said it brings in more than $12.5 million a year from its trademark and licensing program.  

Ohio State filed a trademark application in August 2019. A month later, the application was denied. 

Josh Gerben, a prominent trademark lawyer, explained on Twitter Wednesday why the process of getting approved took so long. 

"The USPTO refused Ohio State's trademark application for the word "THE" on Sept 11, 2019, for two reasons," he said. "1. The trademark was 'merely ornamental.' 2. The clothing company Marc Jacobs had filed an application for 'THE' several months earlier."

According to Gerben, the university responded by saying it was not using the trademark in a merely ornamental manner and opposing Marc Jacobs' trademark application.

The attorney said the two entities were able to settle their dispute.  

"While the terms of the settlement agreement were not disclosed, USPTO records indicate that Ohio State and Marc Jacobs agreed that they could BOTH own a registration for the word 'THE'," Gerben tweeted.  

The school has previously secured other trademarks, including the names of football coaches Woody Hayes and Urban Meyer. 

Full Statement from The Ohio State University:

"Ohio State is pleased to have received a trademark for THE on branded products associated with and sold through athletics and collegiate channels. 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. Like other institutions, Ohio State works to protect the university’s brand and trademarks because these assets benefit students and faculty, and support our core academic mission of teaching and research. Ohio State’s trademark and licensing program generates an average of over $12.5 million annually in revenue for the university, which funds student scholarships and university programs.

"The university’s initial trademark filing in 2019 was prompted by apparel designer Marc Jacob’s application to trademark THE. In 2021, the university was pleased to reach an agreement with Jacobs that allows both parties to register THE branded products for continued use and license."

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