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Thursday, September 12, 2019

THE Ohio State University's Trademark Application for the Word 'The' Has Been Denied

Posted By and on Thu, Sep 12, 2019 at 3:57 PM

  • Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Accidentally refer to The Ohio State University simply as "Ohio State University" and you'll instantly get corrected by one of the school's thousands of fans and alumni walking around Cincinnati on the daily.

And back in August, The Ohio State University filed an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to trademark its use of the word "the" — one of the most common words in the English language — in its school name for official merchandise and apparel.

“Like other institutions, Ohio State works to vigorously protect the university’s brand and trademarks,” spokesman Chris Davey told The Columbus Dispatch in a statement, confirming the school's submission.

While it's possible to trademark basic words or phrases, the applicant must prove a distinction in how they use that word or phrase. The Ohio State (which was recently called out for having THE most annoying fan base) even sent in an example of what a potential T-shirt would look like: 
click to enlarge webcontent.5d546fc0e9c46.5d7a3e20dd0c4.jpg

Unfortunately, the United States Patent and Trademark Office says that the university has not proven their case, calling the "the" merely ornamental.

The refusal reads: "Registration is refused because the applied-for mark as used on the specimen of record is merely a decorative or ornamental feature of applicant’s clothing and, thus, does not function as a trademark to indicate the source of applicant’s clothing and to identify and distinguish applicant’s clothing from others."

But! In "appropriate circumstances" they can "overcome the refusal" by doing a couple of things, including submitting a different, better example of a T-shirt with a non-ornamental "the" on it and proving that consumers directly associate the word "the" "with applicant as the source of the goods."

The Ohio State University has six months to respond to the refusal.

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