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Ohio State Awarded Trademark On Use Of The Word “THE”

The university will control the use of the word on clothing such as “t-shirts, baseball caps and hats."

As first reported on Wednesday by trademark attorney Josh Gerben, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has approved Ohio State’s request to trademark “THE” for use on clothing.

The registration certificate allows the university to control the use of the word on clothing such as “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 application was filed in August 2019 in an attempt to “vigorously protect the university’s brand and trademarks because these assets hold significant value.” It was initially denied by the USPTO because it was “merely decorative or ornamental” and fashion company Marc Jacobs had already attempted to trademark the word three months earlier.

The Buckeyes have prominently used the word on apparel since at least 2005, while Marc Jacobs has notably placed it on underwear, jackets, backpacks and handbags in recent years. The dispute became part of popular culture when it was the subject of a question on the game show "Jeopardy" last summer.

The two parties came to an agreement in 2021 that allowed both to use the word on their products until the USPTO made a further ruling. However, after Ohio State modified the application to show the request was not “merely decorative or ornamental,” the request was approved on Tuesday.

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