Ohio State University baffled many when it recently attempted to trademark the word “The”, insisting that the full name of the institution, founded in 1870, is “The Ohio State University” and, as such, it was entitled to trademark the word “The” in order to license its full name on merchandise such as clothing.

Following much derision, the University’s attempt has now failed, with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) refusing the application to register the trademark.

In a statement, the USPTO said that “Registration is refused because the applied-for mark … is merely a decorative or ornamental feature of the applicant’s clothing and, thus, does not function as a trademark to indicate the source of applicant’s clothing and to identify and distinguish applicant’s clothing from others”.

Ohio State University has six months to respond to the USPTO ruling. Meanwhile, another application to trademark the definitive article, this time by fashion company Mark Jacobs for “THE BACKPACK MARK JACOBS” is currently under review by the USPTO, having been given initial approval back in June.

Ohio State University is no strange to trademark disputes, having attempted, in 2017, to trademark its initials “OSU” for merchandise purposes. When Oklahoma State University objected, the institutions agreed that each should continue to use the “OSU” acronym on their respective clothing.

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