Ohio State Trademark Application for Word ‘The’ Rejected

OSU mascot Brutus Buckeye
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Ohio State University had its trademark application for the word “the” rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week. The main reason appears to be the university’s choice of font size.

According to a local news report, The Ohio State University had its trademark application for the word “the” rejected this week.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provided two reasons for the rejection. First, fashion designer Marc Jacobs filed a request to trademark “the” just two days before Ohio State submitted its application. However, the USPTO also rejected Jacob’s application on August 28.

The primary reason for the rejection is related to the university’s narrow usage of the word “the” on university-branded apparel and accessories. In a letter, the USPTO wrote that the large size of the word “the” on Ohio State University apparel was a significant factor in the decision-making process. According to the trademark office attorney, a trademark only exists when the alleged mark is used in a variety of applications and sizes. Because”the” is only featured on Ohio State University apparel in a single manner, it is not a valid trademark.

The size, location, dominance, and significance of the alleged mark [“THE”] as used on the goods are all relevant factors in determining the commercial impression of the applied-for mark.

With respect to clothing, consumers may recognize small designs or discrete wording as trademarks, rather than as merely ornamental features, when located, for example, on the pocket or breast area of a shirt. Consumers may not, however, perceive larger designs or slogans as trademarks when such matter is prominently displayed across the front of a t-shirt.

A spokesperson for OSU claims its their fight to trademark the word “the” is not over. In fact, the USPTO gives applicants six months to provide a counterargument after an initial rejection has been made.


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