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next level branding
August 14, 2019

Ever watched Sunday Night Football? Then you're probably familiar with the team's starters introducing themselves on the bottom of the screen early in the game. A little talking head appears, and the NFL player states his name and where he played in college. Often, when an Ohio State University alum shows up— there are many playing in the NFL — he says he went to "The Ohio State University," with an emphasis on the "The."

Well, that is the Columbus school's official name, but it's also become a major part of the Division I athletics powerhouse's brand. And they're looking to capitalize on it. Ohio State filed a request to trademark the article "the" last week for use on clothing such as t-shirts and baseball caps, as discovered by prominent Washington trademark lawyer Josh Gerben on Tuesday evening.

Unfortunately for Buckeye fans, they probably won't get to claim one of the most common article words in the English language all to themselves just yet. Gerben explains that simply putting the word on the front of a hat or a shirt — as the university displayed in specimens in their filing — is not "sufficient" for trademark use. Instead, it needs to be "tagging or labeling" the products.

He did say that the school will have the opportunity to fix their request, but he said he's a little surprised Ohio State wasn't more sophisticated with their examples, since it's "trademark 101." But, when it comes to the brand, the Buckeyes apparently go big or go home. Tim O'Donnell

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