OSU Wins Trademark Approval for 'THE'

Trademark only applies to branded clothing sold through 'customary' channels
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 23, 2022 12:05 AM CDT
Ohio State Trademarks 'THE' for Merchandise
A sign for The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.   (AP Photo/Angie Wang, File)

While it's still OK to use the word "the" in conversation—and British post-punk band The The probably doesn't have to worry about a lawsuit—Ohio State University has successfully trademarked the most common word in the English language. The US Patent and Trademark Office has approved OSU's application for a trademark for "THE" on T-shirts, baseball caps, and hats, the Columbus Dispatch reports. An earlier application was turned down in 2019, with the trademark office describing "THE" as a "decorative or ornamental feature" on clothing. OSU also had to reach an agreement with high-end fashion label Marc Jacobs, which filed a separate, and earlier, application to trademark the word.

The approved trademark applies to merchandise "being promoted, distributed, and sold through channels customary to the field of sports and collegiate athletics." OSU—which likes to refer to itself as "The Ohio State University"—has been using THE in its merchandise since 2005. "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 media and PR director Ben Johnson, per the AP. (More Ohio State University stories.)

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