Ohio State applies to trademark the word ‘the.’ What in THE hell is going on?

The Ohio State University is attempting to trademark the word "the" for use on T-shirts, hats and caps.
(Denis Tangney Jr. / Getty Images)

Anybody who thinks it’s obnoxious the way Ohio State athletes emphasize “THE” (pronounced, of course, “THEE” not “THUH”) before stating their university’s name might want to brace themselves.

THE Ohio State University is actually trying to trademark THE word “the.”

Yep, THE school submitted a trademark application to THE U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Aug. 8 for a word everyone uses all THE time.

Apparently, those folks are kind of trademark crazy. The university had 150 trademarks in 17 countries, as well as a number of pending applications, a spokesperson told the Columbus Dispatch last fall.


“Like other institutions, Ohio State works to vigorously protect the university’s brand and trademarks,” Chris Davey, a spokesperson for the university, said in a statement this week. “These assets hold significant value, which benefits our students and faculty and the broader community by supporting our core academic mission of teaching and research.”

This trademark would cover T-shirts, hats and caps that feature the lone word, some of which are available to purchase on the university’s website and were submitted as specimens to support the filing.

The application also states that the trademark would apply to such use of the word “without claim to any particular font style, size, or color.” So anyone who just happens to be a big fan of the definite article and wishes to proudly wear it across their forehead or chest without appearing to support the Buckeyes would be out of luck.

Those folks might want to snatch up all the “a” and “an” hats and shirts they can find, just in case anybody gets any crazy ideas about those indefinite articles too. However, it appears “of” might already be in danger of being trademarked by Ohio State’s longtime rivals: