Ohio State University Secures Trademark For The Word ‘THE’

The Ohio State University has officially won the right to register a trademark for the word “THE” after a more than two-year campaign to secure legal branding access to a word that’s deeply engrained in the school’s history and identity.

The Ohio State UniversityPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

The storied university, located in Columbus, will use the word “THE” for branded products associated with the school and sold through its athletics and collegiate channels, OSU spokesperson Ben Johnson said Wednesday in a statement to CNN.

“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,” Johnson stated.

The filing originated with an application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2019 following fashion designer Marc Jacobs’ filing to trademark the same word, Johnson noted. Last year, the two parties reached an agreement that allows both of them to register “THE” branded products for continuous use and license.

“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 said.

According to OSU, the university’s trademark and licensing program generates more than $12.5 million in annual revenue on average, providing funding for various programs and student scholarships.

The university in Ohio’s capital started using “the” in its name when the institution introduced a new logo in 1986 – moving away from the “OSU” symbol. The move was intended in part to distinguish it from other schools with the same initials – namely Oklahoma State University and Oregon State University.

The fad of emphasizing the word “the” in the school’s title took off in the mid-1990s, when the school requested football players use it while introducing themselves. Those same players used it during NFL broadcasts clips stating their names and their alma maters. OSU alums made sure to emphasize they were from “THE Ohio State University.” The trend became so popular, it was even parodied on an episode of “Saturday Night Live.”

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