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Ohio State University officially wins trademark for the word ‘THE’ from federal government



Ohio State University won a years-long legal battle for “THE” on Tuesday, gaining trademark protection for a three-letter article that plays an outsized role in school identity.

Surely to the sighs and eye rolls of other Big Ten rivals, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved OSU’s application for “THE,” namely for use on branded products such as t-shirts and caps that only feature the single word.

“THE has been a rallying cry in the Ohio State community for many years, and Buckeye fans who purchase official Ohio State gear support student scholarships, libraries and other university initiatives,” according to a statement Wednesday by Ben Johnson, OSU’s senior director of media and public relations.

While those three letters might seem small or inconsequential to outsiders, Johnson said “THE” contributes to about $12.5 million in annual sales and much more in emotional capital to Buckeyes students, alumni and fans.

“Like other institutions, Ohio State works to protect the university’s brand and trademarks because these assets benefit students and faculty, and support our core academic mission of teaching and research,” Johnson added.

“Ohio State’s trademark and licensing program generates an average of over $12.5 million annually in revenue for the university, which funds student scholarships and university programs.”

OSU has been pursuing this trademark since 2019 after fashion retailer Marc Jacobs filed an application for the word. Last year the company and OSU reached a deal that allows both parties to use “THE” in branding.

OSU is one of the nation’s famous college sports powers, regularly fielding championship-level football teams and winning basketball squads.

To the annoyance of Buckeyes rivals, school alum regularly announce themselves to be graduates of “THE Ohio State University.”



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