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Trademark War for THE. Can it be Trademarked?

Battle for -“THE”!
The Word “THE” is a very important word used in the English language without which any sentence would be incomplete. However to trademark the same would be quite difficult due to it being very generic in nature. In order for “THE” to be trademarked it must be used with other additional words to make it more unique and less generic.
Marc Jacobs in May, 2019 filed an application with the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) for trademark registration of the word “THE” alone for use on clothing such as t shirts, hats and baseball caps. Ohio State University initiated the opposition proceeding against the trademark application of Marcs Jacob for the said word with the aim to block the trademark application.
The main issue is whether a generic word “THE” can be trademarked?
OSU contended that since the year 2005 it has consistently been using “THE” trademark on its athletic merch which is a decade prior to the date since which Marc Jacobs used the same mark in connection to his offerings. It was thus contended by OSU that if Marcs Jacobs was granted the said trademark it is likely to cause confusion and interfere with OSU’s private rights.

The UPSTO after approving the trademark registration withdrew its approval in favour of Marc Jacobs due to two reasons:

  1. The specimen submitted which showed “THE” used as a part of a larger overall mark .i e. “THE BACKPACK MARC JACOBS”.
  2. “THE” did not denote source of goods but used it merely as a logo.
    However, it is interesting to note that the OSU like Marc Jacobs, while submitting specimen for usage submitted a t-shirt with the word “THE” used simply as a logo on a shirt and not like a branding or a label.
    The case is currently ongoing wherein the UPSTO is reviewing Marcs Jacobs application and is likely to ask for additional specimens to show usage of the word “THE” as labeling/branding and used by itself and not along with other words.
    It is going to be interesting to see if a generic word like “THE” will be given protection considering that it is associated with the source of either of the applicants alone.
    The battle between both Marc Jacobs and OSU continues.

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