Ohio State, Marc Jacobs Reach Agreement on Usage of 'THE' Trademark

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorApril 23, 2021

In this Nov. 24, 2012 photo, Ohio State fans celebrate on the field after a win over Michigan in an NCAA college football game in Columbus, Ohio. Ahead of the 2014 college football season, the AP asked its panel of Top 25 voters, who are known for ranking the nation's top teams each week, to weigh in on which stadium had the best game day atmosphere. Ohio State’s Horseshoe received recognition from the panel. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan, File)
Mark Duncan/Associated Press

The Ohio State University and fashion designer Marc Jacobs, who have fought over the usage of the "THE" trademark, reached an agreement in which each side can use it pending United States Patent and Trademark Office approval.

Erin Snodgrass of Insider provided more information: "The two groups filed a Consent to Register Agreement Friday and have agreed to suspend opposition proceedings while they await further rulings from the Patent and Trademark Office."

Rick Van Brimmer, Ohio State's assistant vice president for trademark licensing services, spoke with Mark Williams of the Columbus Dispatch.

"We were not trying to get exclusive right to 'THE.' ... This thing is mostly about they're staying in their lane and we're staying our lane. They're high-end apparel and accessories. We're athletic-related, mostly leisure-wear items," Van Brimmer said. He also said the agreement was a "desired outcome."

The fight over "THE" began in 2019. Josh Gerben of Gerben Intellectual Property tweeted in August 2019 that Ohio State filed a trademark application with the Patent and Trademark Office for the word "THE":

Josh Gerben @JoshGerben

The Ohio State University has filed a trademark application on the word "THE." The filing, made on August 8th, indicates #OhioState is offering a brand of "THE" clothing. Not sure how 'The U' will feel about this one. My analysis 👇: #BuckeyeNation #MiamiHurricanes https://t.co/1UvLOAOnIc

Eric Heisig of Cleveland.com reported in March 2020 that OSU asked the office to reconsider a September 2019 decision in which it rejected the school's attempt to trademark "THE."

"The university's statement called their new filing a 'defensive action' in response to Jacobs' own appeal and said his planned use of 'THE' on a shirt encroaches on how OSU uses it," Heisig wrote.

Gerben noted in March that OSU had a pending trademark application:

Josh Gerben @JoshGerben

@darrenrovell @BreakingT The Ohio State University's trademark application for "THE" is still pending at the USPTO. It has been initially blocked by an application for "THE" filed by clothing maker Marc Jacobs. #OralRoberts https://t.co/TheJbLRyXP

On Friday, he said OSU had filed a "notice of opposition" to Jacobs' application on the grounds that the school owned "THE":

Josh Gerben @JoshGerben

Ohio State University and Marc Jacobs are now in a legal battle over who owns trademark rights in the word "THE." @OhioState filed a 'Notice of Opposition' to block Marc Jacobs' trademark filing for the word "THE", claiming that the University is the rightful owner. #OhioState https://t.co/N0HeB0w89U

Ben Johnson, an OSU spokesman, then told Gerben the school and Jacobs had reached an agreement. The sides will await word from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.