Ohio State is currently involved in several trademark disputes with colleges and casinos. In an effort to protect its trademarks, the university has gone after an Ohio casino using the nickname of the famous football stadium “The Shoe.” It also has filed to trademark the acronym “OSU” for apparel rights along with “The Oval.”
These efforts are not firsts for the university. Ohio State started filing for trademarks and licensing in 1974, and took another step in 1982 when the Office of Trademark and Licensing Services was created.
According to Ohio State’s Trademark and Licensing Services’ website, the university’s trademarks are among the most popular collegiate emblems nationwide. To date, the Licensing Program has generated over $130 million in royalty revenue from approximately $1.3 billion in licensed retail sales.
It started with popular Ohio State symbols including Brutus Buckeye, Script Ohio, Gold Pants and Block ‘O’, eventually making them exclusive property of the university. Since then, the university has broadened its trademark footprint to include dozens of slogans, images and traditions that represent the Ohio State brand.
“Like other institutions, the university works with our partners to vigorously protect the brand and trademarks of Ohio State because these assets hold significant value, which benefits our students and faculty and the broader community by supporting our core academic mission of teaching and research,” an Ohio State spokesman said in an email.
The Shoe, The ‘Shoe
Ohio State reached a settlement with Caesars Entertainment casinos Wednesday after the university filed a lawsuit over a trademark dispute with Caesars’ Horseshoe Casino in Cincinnati back in February.
The casino attempted to name the music venue “The Shoe” in 2015, but Ohio State objected, as it owns the trademark for clothing and toys.
Because Ohio Stadium began holding concerts, Ohio State lawyers argued that the stadium is now a direct competitor of the Cincinnati venue, heightening the disagreement.
According to Columbus Business First, the dispute reached an undisclosed settlement.
Ohio State filed for apparel rights of “OSU” in February, however, Oklahoma State University has said they plan to oppose these efforts before late August.
Ohio State, Oklahoma State and Oregon State share the acronym, but each school has trademark rights of “OSU” on a state-by-state basis.
According to USA Today, Ohio State’s trademark covers 19 states in the Midwest and East Coast and Oklahoma State’s trademark covers 17 states in the West and South Coasts.
With Iowa geographically located in the middle of the two states, the OSU acronym is split in the state.
The University Trademark and Licensing Services filed on Feb. 9 for a trademark protection regarding the use of The Oval as a name and image – though not the shape – to be branded and reproduced, primarily for the use of apparel and clothing.
While the university has already been making T-shirts and hats with “The Oval” emblazoned on it, a trademark will add a layer of protection and allow the university to seek damages against those that use “The Oval” without license approval, said Rick Van Brimmer, director of Ohio State’s Trademark and Licensing Services, in March.
“In this day and age, as printing and manufacturing is getting easier and easier for anybody to do, we just think it’s necessary to add those extra layers of protection,” he said.
In an effort to protect and enforce its brand, the university has sent more than 100 cease-and-desist letters to various businesses for various alleged copyright and trademark infringements over the past four years, according to university records.
In March, Steven Swartz, owner of BuckeyeFanApparel.com, told The Lantern the huge licensing contracts are one of the reasons why T-shirts and fan gear are so expensive these days.
“(Ohio State has) gone around and gotten rid of street vendors who don’t have licenses,” Swartz said. “If you don’t have a contract, you can’t sell it, and they will make sure of it.”
Some other trademarks the university holds are: images such as the buckeye stripe, the helmet leaf, home and away football uniforms and script Ohio, and university affiliated names such as “Wexner Medical Center,” “The James,” “Fisher College of Business,” “Mortiz College of Law” and “WOSU.”
In June the university sued a Short North clothing store for trademark infringement for offering clothes with images depicting the buckeye leaf, script Ohio and a Block O.
Ohio State is seeking a permanent injunction against the company and statutory damages of $1 million from the clothing store, according to the lawsuit filed.