How Ohio State’s “THE” Mark Affects Businesses
COLUMBUS, Ohio – For many Buckeye fans, Ohio State has always had “the” ahead of it, before it’s even official. Although the brand makes fans enthusiastic, it could have both negative and positive effects on small businesses.
Julie Sapp has worked at College Traditions since she was a student at Ohio State. She always put a “t” in front of OSU to represent “the”, but she never thought it would become official.
“Now that it’s a trademark, it even makes it a bit more special. I never really thought it was something you could even trademark a word,” Sapp said. “A word of three letters.”
Ohio State University filed a petition to trademark “the” in 2019. After a three-year battle, they officially have access to the legal trademark of the three-letter word. It won’t hurt small businesses like college traditions because everything has to be licensed before it hangs in their store.
“It doesn’t really affect anything; we’ll just be able to sell more items that just say the word ‘the’ or Ohio State University,” Sapp said.
For other small businesses like Mid-High Market, the rebrand could have negative effects. The store is on High Street, across from the Ohio State Union. The place is packed with fans on game days. Designer Dalton Willis said the new branding may complicate things for some of their existing merchandise.
“We’ve been avoiding certain situations for about two years now, so I don’t think it’s going to be that difficult as long as we keep a low profile with everything,” Willis said.
He said they would most likely pull any merchandise that only has “the” top, limiting their sales and products. He has consulted with the owners of the store and is unsure whether they will try to go through the proper licensing channels or get rid of the merchandise altogether.
“We’ve been in it for a while. We know how tricky this has already been, so one more word, what does that really matter a ton? But there are definitely things to do,” Willis said.
The university shares “the” branded products with designer Marc Jacobs. OSU’s bachelor’s degree program generates more than $12.5 million annually that the university uses for academic programs and scholarships.