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Ohio State, Marc Jacobs come to truce over trademark of 'THE'

The university and the fashion brand have agreed to let each other use "THE" on merchandise until the trademark office reaches a decision.
Image: Ohio State University Reopens For In-Class Learning
Students wearing protective masks walk through campus during classes at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, on Aug. 25, 2020.Ty Wright / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Ohio State University—pardon, The Ohio State University— said Friday it had reached an intellectual cease fire with fashion brand Marc Jacobs regarding their trademark battle over the word "THE."

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."

The school said in a Friday filing with the trademark office that it has referred to itself as The Ohio State University since 1878 to distinguish it from other colleges in the state. In 2005, the institution began using "THE" prominently on school spirit apparel, it said in the filing.

The university filed a trademark application for "THE" on Aug. 8, 2019, but learned about a month later that Marc Jacobs had already submitted a similar request that could thwart the school's commercial use of the word.

The Marc Jacobs application came on May 6, 2019, and proposed the use of "THE" on everything from underwear to jackets and backpacks to handbags.

The university argued in its Friday filing that Marc Jacobs' application covered similar apparel and so closely resembled the school's "THE" merchandise that consumers could confuse them for official Ohio State items.

The school asked the trademark office to refuse Marc Jacobs' application for exclusive use of "THE." But later Friday, it backed off.

"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."

A representative for Marc Jacobs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.