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 the 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, only Ohio State can have apparel that just has “THE” on it.
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.
An Ohio State representative said the university generates over $12.5 million a year through its trademark and licensing program, which is used to fund scholarships and programs.
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.”