Ohio State University recently filed a federal trademark application for the mark THE in connection with clothing. The application has elicited plenty of news coverage and lots of laughs, but the question remains: is THE really eligible for trademark registration?
Collective and certification marks hammer home the core tenet of trademark law: trademarks exist to protect consumers, not to privilege registrants. (I promise, this one’s always true.) Beyond that fundamental principle, however, these oddball marks behave differently from the rest of the trademark family.
In everyday parlance, the intellectual property terms “trademark,” “patent,” and “copyright” are used interchangeably. For brand strategists and managers, it is prudent to discern one from the next and, specifically in relation to building brands, understand what it really means and requires to “trademark” something. Let’s start with what a trademark is not.
A trademark is a word(s) and/or design(s) that identifies the source of goods or services.