Can the word ‘THE’ acquire trademark protection?
The Ohio State University from the state of Ohio filed a trademark application bearing the serial number 88571984 with the USPTO (United States Patents and Trademarks Office) in 2019 to seek protection of the word ‘THE’.
The user date of the application dated back to the year 2005 and had been filed in respect of “Clothing, namely, t-shirts, baseball caps and hats” under Class 25. The trademark is that of a label which comprises the word ‘THE’ in bold letters and the logo Ohio State University beneath it. However, the process was off to a rocky start as the University had only submitted a specimen T-shirt bearing the word ‘THE’ instead of the mark appearing as in the label, which was ultimately insufficient to prove usage. The application status remains suspended.
Similarly, the American fashion brand, Marc Jacobs, also sought trademark protection of the word “THE” (in respect of apparels under Class 25 and handbags under Class 28) and has been undergoing a lot of difficulties to succeed at it. The Trademarks Examiner is of the opinion that the end consumers will be unable to denote a connection between ‘THE’ and the Marc Jacobs’ brand.
Clearly one cannot hope to trademark a determiner!