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U.S. Patent Office Lets Ohio State Trademark the Word ‘The’

June 23, 2022

It took years, but Ohio State University has finally prevailed upon the U.S. government to let it trademark the most common word in the English language.Red shirt with the word "The" in white letters.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Wednesday granted the university the exclusive right to use the brand “THE” for “clothing, namely, t-shirts, baseball caps and hats; all of the foregoing being promoted, distributed, and sold through channels customary to the field of sports and collegiate athletics.” The patent office's approval came three years after it initially denied Ohio State’s attempt to trademark use of the word, saying it was merely ornamental. A year ago, the university settled a dispute with the fashion designer Marc Jacobs, who had petitioned for exclusive use of the word on high-end clothing.

Ohio State prefers to be called The Ohio State University.

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Doug Lederman

Doug Lederman is editor and co-founder of Inside Higher Ed. He helps lead the news organization's editorial operations, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Doug speaks widely about higher education, including on C-Span and National Public Radio and at meetings and on campuses around the country, and his work has appeared in The New York Times and USA Today, among other publications. Doug was managing editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education from 1999 to 2003. Before that, Doug had worked at The Chronicle since 1986 in a variety of roles, first as an athletics reporter and editor. He has won three National Awards for Education Reporting from the Education Writers Association, including one in 2009 for a series of Inside Higher Ed articles he co-wrote on college rankings. He began his career as a news clerk at The New York Times. He grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and graduated in 1984 from Princeton University. Doug lives with his wife, Kate Scharff, in Bethesda, Md.

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