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US University Wins Trademark Right To The Word 'The', Yep, You Read That Right

THE Ohio State University in the US has just won a fight to trademark for one of the most common words in the English language, the word "The."

The US Patent and Trademark Office approved the trademark earlier this week, three years after the university applied for it.  


The university now controls the use of "The" on any application on clothing and apparel.   


"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," said Ben Johnson, the university's senior director of media and public relations.  


So, while the university don't own the word "The," it's a trademark that is up there with the most unique.  


Josh Gerben, a trademark attorney in the US, noted that it was common for universities to protect their logos but highly unusual to protect such a common and vague word.  


"You can't own the word for everything, so they don't own the word," Gerben said.  


"This was something that apparently they felt was important enough to spend the time and energy on to register and ultimately be able to police the marketplace from anybody that might be using the word as branded clothing."  


Gerben noted that apparel brand Marc Jacobs had also applied to trademark the word and that Ohio State was being defensive by applying for the trademark.  


"Ohio State is not going to have a very broad amount of protection over the word," Gerben said.  


"This is a very, very narrow registration with very, very narrow enforcement capabilities associated with it."  


Both Ohio State and Marc Jacobs came to an agreement in late 2021 that allows both parties to use the branding.