Government Says Ohio State Can’t Trademark ‘The’

Grace James
News Editor

It looks like OSU will have to settle on being called “Ohio State University” for now, at least legally.

The school filed a trademark application in August for the word “THE,” when used with the name of the university. It hoped to use the words on merchandise such as t-shirts, hats and baseball caps.

Chris Deavey, spokesperson for Ohio State, said it was important to vigorously protect the university’s brand and trademarks. 

“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,” Deavey said. 

However, the request was seen as “kind of ridiculous” by former Ohio State quarterback Kirk Herbstreit.


“I’ve never really bought into that,” he said. “My dad played at Ohio State, my dad coached with Woody Hayes. Ohio State’s always been Ohio State.”

Unfortunately for OSU, the request was denied by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The patent office concluded the trademark would have been used in a “merely decorative manner” and as an “ornamental feature.” Therefore, the trademark would not function to distinguish the items from others. 

In order for the trademark application to be approved, the university would have to show the trademark would allow consumers to directly associate the merchandise with their brand. OSU is reviewing its options and plans to respond in six months. 

Sorry, Buckeyes. 

Cover photo courtesy of Flickr

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