Ohio State nears agreement in its fight to trademark ‘THE’

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Who can own a word? If Ohio State has its way, it’s close to an agreement to end a dispute over the use of the word “THE.”

Ohio State — or The Ohio State University, if you prefer — filed a notice of opposition with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Friday, saying that apparel-maker Marc Jacobs should not be allowed to trademark the word — because it says it laid claim to it first.

“Granting federal trademark registration for [Marc Jacobs’] THE Mark … would be improper and would interfere with Ohio State’s prior rights,” the filing read.

The document also contained a footnote that Ohio State and Marc Jacobs have executed a consent to register agreement that would resolve their dispute. The agreement, much like the appeal, must be approved by the trademark office.

Ohio State attempted to trademark “THE” in 2019, but the application was denied because it was seen as an “ornamental feature” and also because Marc Jacobs had beaten them to the punch, filing an application months earlier for use on a series of handbags, backpacks and other items.

Ohio State said it had been using “THE” on T-shirts and hats since as early as 2005, so its earlier use should be recognized.

The school is known for fervently protecting anything relating to its image. An NBC4 report in 2019 turned up 216 pages in letters that its attorneys had sent to people and companies about its indicia being used without authorization.

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