It turns out you can spell “Ohio State” without “The” — at least for now.
Ohio State’s request to trademark the word “The” was denied Tuesday by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on the grounds that there was already a similar application filed and that it was “merely ornamental.”
Ohio State submitted its original application Aug. 8, which stated that the trademark would apply to “The” when attached to “Ohio State University” on “clothing, namely, T-shirts, baseball caps and hats.”
The denial states that size, location and dominance are all relevant factors and the submitted materials include shirts with “THE” in the upper frontal area of the shirt and that dominates the appearance.
“Consumers would view the applied-for mark as a decorative or ornamental feature of the goods, rather than as a trademark to indicate the source of applicant’s goods and to distinguish them from others,” the patent office said in the refusal.
High-end fashion brand Marc Jacobs also filed an application for “The,” and the patent office said in the refusal that if this application is approved, this could create confusion between the two marks.
However, it’s not the end for “The” Ohio State yet.
The patent office said in the refusal that Ohio State could overcome the denial in several ways, including submitting a different sample that shows “proper trademark” and “non-ornamental” use on clothing such as hang tags and labels inside the clothing.
Ohio State has six months to respond to the initial refusal, and university spokesperson Ben Johnson said in a statement that the university is considering its next move.
“The Ohio State University has received a Nonfinal Office Action from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which is not unusual. We are reviewing our options,” he said.
Ohio State has filed for several other trademarks directly related to university names in the past, according to previous reporting by The Lantern.
In 2015, Caesars Entertainment casinos named a music venue “The Shoe,” a name Ohio State owns the rights to on clothing and toys. The involved parties reached an undisclosed settlement.
In 2017, “the Oval” was used on merchandise sold by outside retailers, and in an effort to preserve the rights to the name, Ohio State filed for a trademark regarding “the Oval”.
The Ohio State acronym also happens to be the acronym for Oklahoma State and Oregon State, and each university has ‘OSU’ trademarked across specific states. Ohio State filed for ‘OSU’ apparel rights in 2017, but Oklahoma State objected, and the two universities reached a settlement outside of court.