Ohio State's Trademark Request for 'the' Denied by US Patent Office

For football fans, Ohio State University is commonly associated with the word "the." This is owed to all of the former players announcing themselves as having players for THE Ohio State University. The Buckeyes players and their fans refuse to refer to this team without that signifier but forgetting to say "the" cannot be viewed as a legal issue.

Back in mid-August, Ohio State University attempted to trademark "the" with the US Patent Office. This move, as expected, was met with considerable criticism and even more jokes, but the university still proceeded with the attempted trademark. Unfortunately for them, however, the claim was denied. According to Cleveland.com, Marc Jacobs' clothing line was involved.

One is that the Marc Jacobs fashion line beat the university to the punch, seeking to trademark "the" on May 6 for its use on handbags, knapsacks and other items. Ohio State didn't file its application until Aug. 8.

The other reason is that Ohio State's proposed use of it on clothing "is merely a decorative or ornamental feature of applicant's clothing." In other words, it's an add-on and not something that would help people associate with the name of the university itself.

For those from Ohio State University, they can rest assured that the attempted trademark by Marc Jacobs was denied on August 28. There was no special treatment for the clothing line. Both applicants will now have six months to file an appeal with added explanation for why they deserve "the" to be their exclusive content. If no application is filed in that period, it will be considered dead.

This denial, while disappointing for fans of the Buckeyes, was expected by trademark lawyer Josh Gerben. As he explained to CNN, there were multiple issues with the attempted trademark, including the goal of changing the merchandise.

"This application has issues out of the gate," Gerben said. "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 products. In this case, just putting the word 'the' on the front of a hat or on the front of a shirt is not sufficient trademark use."


Ultimately, the US Patent Office agreed with this assessment, and now Ohio State University will have to find more evidence to support the attempted trademark. If this doesn't happen, however, the failed application will simply become another reason for rival fanbases to mock the Buckeyes.