University Wins Trademark Right To The Word ‘THE’

The Ohio State University just won a major legal battle fought over years in their pursuit to trademark the word "the."

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner | Published

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Many universities go by their trademark name. Sports teams often emphasize proper introductions in conjunction with their titles as well. Now, The Ohio State University has earned the legal title to include the word “The.”

Unlike Arizona State or Colorado State, The Ohio State University has placed an emphasis on incorporating the word, “THE” for some time. Their football team, The Buckeyes, proudly speak about “The Ohio State University,” along with students, faculty, and even community members. Because of this, the college worked for three years to officially trademark their school with its important connecting work, “The.”

Since 2019 Ohio state has been embroiled in a legal pursuit to properly brand their school. After a long process, the school is officially The Ohio State University. That branding will be used for clothing, and other items sold to promote the college.

No, the school does not own the word, “The.” It is too vague a term to be owned by a single entity. Even so, this distinction does set Ohio state apart from other colleges which do not emphasize a longer title.   

It has been speculated that the college moved to trademark the word for their branding purposes due to the fact that the Marc Jacobs apparel line had applied to trademark the word. Whether The Ohio State University wished to defend its claim on the word or had other reasons is unknown. What is apparent is that the school is serious about its brand and preserving the spirit behind it. 

Not all schools take their name as seriously. Many students and teachers have nicknames for the universities they attend. In support of this more relaxed approach to the subject, the University of Michigan mocked Ohio state when they filed for the trademark 3 years ago. 

School officials tweeted a giant image of the word, “OF” in front of a tiny letter M beneath the trademark symbol. The tweet gained over 24K likes and was shared nearly 5K times. The comments were full of laughter and jabs at Ohio State for their sports record against the University of Michigan. 

While some may consider Ohio State’s legal move unusual, branding has become such a common advertising tactic that others support the move. Everywhere individuals, businesses, and even governing bodies are branding their efforts and their content. Branding is one of the easiest ways to reach the general public. Everyone knows what certain symbols and catchphrases are from. They tap into our subconscious and influence our behaviors whether we acknowledge it or not. 

Now that The Ohio State University has earned trademark rights to the word, “The,” they can freely brand their clothing and other items which support the school as it is known to those who frequent it. Not many believe that the college would sue anyone or other entities for incorporating the word into their own brands, but it does set a precedent for schools and corporations to begin collecting common connector words and exercise ownership of them.  While considered extreme, the intent is clear: to define the school’s proper name at all costs.