‘THE’: Ohio State awarded trademark on three-letter word

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(AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio State University has successfully received a trademark on the word “THE.”

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved Ohio State’s application Tuesday by issuing a registration certificate. It allows Ohio State to control use of “THE” on “clothing, namely, T-shirts, baseball caps and hats; all of the foregoing being promoted, distributed, and sold through channels customary to the field of sports and collegiate athletics,” the certificate reads.

In other words, that’s Ohio State apparel that may display only the word “THE” on them.

Ohio State had attempted as early as 2019 to trademark the word. In response to those questioning the move, it said at the time, “Like other institutions, Ohio State works to vigorously protect the university’s brand and trademarks because these assets hold significant value.”

As trademark attorney Josh Gerben detailed in a thread on social media, the process took years because a clothing company had filed its own application to trademark “THE” around the same time. Ohio State and Marc Jacobs, the clothing company, worked to resolve their dispute so both could claim use of the word on their products.

This is not the first time Ohio State has attempted to defend its trademark on something as simple as a common word. In 2019, it went to court with a high school apparel company over its use of the letter “O.”

For NFL fans living outside of The Buckeye State, an emphatic “THE Ohio State” might be a confusing but familiar reference made by players or broadcasters during a pre-kickoff introduction to the two teams.

The answer dates back to the 1980s, but the roots of the word’s inclusion go back to the 19th century, according to the school.

The “the” became a point of pride in 1986 when the university embraced the three-letter addition as a means of differentiating OSU from the other OSUs – Oregon State University and Oklahoma State University.

The “the” was also part of language included in state legislation when, in 1878, the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College was renamed “The Ohio State University,” according to OSU’s website.

Legend also has it that “The” was used to show the other colleges which institution was supposed to be the leader in the state – both in size and in financial support from the legislature.

The Ohio State University

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