Home Local Sports ‘MATTer of Opinion’ Sports Column: Ohio State shows ‘THE’ most arrogance

‘MATTer of Opinion’ Sports Column: Ohio State shows ‘THE’ most arrogance

Not since Baker Mayfield planted a Sooner flag in the middle of the Ohio State football field have I been as irritated with the fussy nature of Buckeye fans.

Or, should I say THE Buckeye fans.

Ohio State University — oh, i mean THE Ohio State University — filed a request with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Aug. 8 to trademark the word “the.” It’s the most common word used in the English language.

I’ve used it 10 times already.

This silly filing was discovered by patent attorney Josh Gerben, who posted a screenshot of the application on Twitter with his audio analysis on whether it has any actual legal merit.

The Buckeyes for years have been insisting the world refer to the school with “the” in front of the name. To hammer the point home in some trendy way, it is launching a line of clothing featuring “THE.”

Documents filed with the federal agency gave some examples, like a red shirt with “THE” on the front. So original. Can you imagine the brain trust that decided this?

If nothing else, I’m just trying to take up for Oklahoma State and Oregon State here.

Ohio State — ugh, The Ohio State — has been a pain about the acronym OSU, fighting with the Stillwater brethren off and on for at least 40 years. 

In 2017, The Ohio State filed to trademark “OSU,” which prompted an appeal from the Cowboys. The schools had an agreement since 1976 over the use of OSU, but the internet freaked out people in Ohio.

One would think it wouldn’t be a problem with the whole “THE” insistence, making the Buckeyes really TOSU. That would make for something nice to say, like, “I bet OSU could beat Toe-sue.”

The schools reached an agreement later that year, but TOSU started it. The whole thing is stupid.

If “the” can be trademarked, why not “a” or “an?” Those are fine words in our language, although Nathaniel Hawthorne may have ruined “A” as an apparel option.

Or, maybe some versatile words like “that” or “which.”

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has seen other odd sports-related requests before.

The New England Patriots asked to trademark “19-0,” anticipating a 2008 undefeated season. It was denied, then the team lost the Super Bowl two weeks later. However, it was awarded that trademark in 2017.

Boise State University was granted a trademark for its blue football turf. Syracuse University holds at least two dozen trademarks on phrases with the word “orange.”

Johnny Manziel filed for at least 10 trademarks and has the rights to “Johnny Football.” Marshawn Lynch owns “Beast Mode.”

My favorite: The New York Yankees won the “Evil Empire,” which actually started as an insult from the Boston Red Sox.

This latest request from Ohio State — sorry, The Ohio State — reeks of arrogance, and that is something that should surprise no one. The Buckeyes shouldn’t get too excited, however, according to Gerben’s Twitter commentary.


“My prediction here is that this application has issues out of the gate,” he said online. “In order for a trademark to be registered for a brand of clothing, the trademark must be used in a trademark fashion. In other words, it has to be used on tagging or labeling for the products. In this case, just putting the word ‘the’ on the front of a hat or on the front of a shirt is not sufficient trademarking.

“So, The Ohio State University is likely to receive an initial refusal of the application.”

Gerben said the school will have a chance to fix it.

“But it’s a little surprising that the university would not have been a little bit more sophisticated in the specimens that they submitted with their application here. It’s sort of trademarks 101,” Gerben said.

Sophistication is lacking, along with common sense and public relations.

Fighting over common words is irritating. This isn’t some unique symbol, logo, company name or brand. This is the kind of legal wrangling and waste of time that annoys Americans.

A written statement defending the application was sent to The Columbus Dispatch from school spokesman Chris Davey: “Like other institutions, Ohio State works to vigorously protect the university’s brand and trademarks.”

It appears even the spokesman forgets to use “THE.”

Final “the” count: 61.


THE Matt Harrelson is the co-host of  THE Good Morning Sandhills, THE Live at 5, THE RO Sports Show and  THE ROSS Racing.



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