OSU, Marc Jacobs Call Truce Over Infuriating Competing Trademark Applications For The Word "The"

from the facepalm dept

Normally, when we see what we consider a dumb trademark dispute over a dumb trademark resulting in two parties calling a truce and stopping the dumbness, we cheer such resolutions on. Far too many dumb trademark disputes find their way into the courtroom or become prolonged USPTO disputes, after all. So, when a resolution is amicably reached, that tends to be a good thing.

This is not one of those times. You will recall that since the middle of 2019, we have been discussing a crazy trademark application made by The Ohio State University for the word “THE”. Yes, the school is trying to trademark what may well be the most commonly used word in the English language simply because of its own pompous insistence that its school be recognized with that word at the start of its name. It’s dumb enough, in fact, that former OSU footballer and current NCAA Football analyst Kirk Herbstreit panned the school’s actions in an interview. Despite the public outcry over all of this, and despite the school initially being denied the mark by the USPTO on largely technical grounds, OSU has continued to press on trying to get its trademark.

Unfortunately, as it did so, it discovered that another player had entered this tournament of stupid. Luxury clothier Marc Jacobs had apparently submitted its own trademark application for “THE”, because idiot-lightning apparently does strike twice. And, while OSU had planned an opposition to the application, the two sides have now announced a truce.

The university said an agreement filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will allow both parties to use “THE” on their products until the office makes “further rulings” on the matter, according to a statement from Ohio State spokesman Benjamin Johnson.

“Ohio State is pleased to have reached an agreement with Marc Jacobs,” he said. “Ohio State and Marc Jacobs have agreed to suspend opposition proceedings while awaiting further rulings from the Patent and Trademark Office. Marc Jacobs’ THE branded products are associated with high-end/contemporary fashion,” Johnson said. “Ohio State’s THE branded products are associated with and sold through athletics and collegiate channels.”

Meanwhile, both parties’ “THE” trademark applications are still insane and should never be allowed to reach the state of approved trademark. Again, truces like this are normally a good thing, but when that truce is called over an agreement to temporarily share the usage of one of the most commonly used words in a language, not so much.

The most recent information OSU provided to the USPTO was all to do with just how long the school has referred to itself as THE Ohio State University, as well as the wide range of apparel and merch for which it has used the word “THE”. Left out of that information is any substantive explanation for how in the absolute hell “THE” on athletic gear is suppose to be a source identifier among the general public for that specific school. It seems like the only possible argument would be roughly: “We’ve been so annoying about using this common word wherever possible that a large section of the public hates us for it and thus would make the connection.”

But for OSU, and frankly for Marc Jacobs, I can’t imagine how such an assertion could possibly clear the bar towards making this a valid trademark.

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Companies: marc jacobs, ohio state university

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Comments on “OSU, Marc Jacobs Call Truce Over Infuriating Competing Trademark Applications For The Word "The"”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

This has got to be THE dumbest thing.
A college who has THE time to waste money on trying to trademark a word that THE general population do not associate with them.
I think that this is just THE latest money grab to support THE sportsball program that brings in THE bacon.
One does wonder why THE public doesn’t take the board to THE woodshed and ask them why THE fuck they are wasting money on fighting THE pointless battle when working out how THE hell they will get students back on THE campus and salvage THE educational careers of THE students who we are fairly certain will not see THE benefits of THE decision to waste THE money.

Anonymous Coward says:

No one should be allowed to own a simple common word used in almost every sentence,
It’s stupid and pointless and they can simply sell merch call Ohio state University or OSU
but then lawyers need to get paid
America has more lawyers than any other country
A university is some supposed to be a place for education and
learning trying to own a simple 3 letter word is not a good example to set for the public

Flakbait (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I lived in Columbus when all the THE bullshit started. It didn’t start with the lawyers but with the marketers who noted that the university’s charter included the definite article "The" in its name. But they are nothing if not strident, and they do have a limitless supply of unpaid legal assistants at OSU’s College of Law.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Not The Real Thing

One problem with trying to capture a single word such as “the” is that it may appear in other, older marks. There is less of this risk if you use a made-up word, so, for instance, “Fartfarthernugent” should provide little opposition.

Many years ago, an Atlanta-based beverage company made a product incorporating quite a bit of sugar. They promoted it as “the real thing”. I used to purchase a fair amount of the product for home use.

No doubt the mark was famous back in the day. It has been decades since they switched to corn sweetener and stopped selling “the real thing”, at least here in the States. Corn sweetener is much cheaper, and the marketing folks claim that the corn-sweetener-based product tastes so similar to the real thing that it might be termed “classic”.

I used to purchase unhealthful beverages. When I was in the grocery, I never once accidentally purchased an out-of-state school instead of the beverages I expected. Neither did I mistakenly come home with overpriced clothing. And I suspect that very few people seeking education, or whatever is offered in the Buckeye state, got confused and came home with a carton of fizzy beverage instead.

Are we allowed to comment on “the” implicit assumption by Ohio State that its potential students are a bunch of morons in a hurry?

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