IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

'The' Ohio State University loses its three-letter trademark bid

Columbus school told that its request to protect 'the' isn't necessary.

Federal regulators on Wednesday rejected Ohio State University in its bid to trademark "the" in front of OSU's name, saying such protection just isn't necessary.

The school in Columbus has aggressively marketed itself with the three-letter word, with Buckeyes sports organizations insisting on being addressed as teams from "the Ohio State University."

Ohio State University in Columbus
Ohio State University in Columbus.Angie Wang / AP

OSU last month asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to make the single word "the" an exclusive Buckeyes right for use on T-shirts and baseball caps and hats.

"Registration is refused because the applied-for mark as used on the specimen of record is merely a decorative or ornamental feature of 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," according to Tara L. Bhupathi, the examining attorney who handled the case.

The "the" moniker has long rankled sports fans and journalists, who've called it "pompous and stupid," "ridiculous" and "arrogant."

Partisans, including the university, point out that "the" is part of its name under state law.

The school said it will consider all avenues of appeal.

"We are reviewing our options and have six months to respond," OSU spokesman Benjamin Johnson said Wednesday afternoon.