WalMart once tried to trademark the smiley face. Sarah Palin tried to trademark her name. Syracuse University tried to nail down the word “orange.”
Because, well, who else could make a claim to that?
There have been attempts to secure “19-0” and the sound of a Harley Davidson engine and the phrase “that’s hot,” which Paris Hilton successfully stole from our lexicon, as she thought it added to her aura.
Good thing that aura faded. Though the concussive blast of an open-throttled Harley continues to fill our open spaces.
That’s not a bad thing, by the way. It’s just amusing that the motorcycle manufacturer thought it could trademark a sound — it lost.
As for 19-0?
The attempt to trademark that sequence came from the New England Patriots a few weeks before they lost Super Bowl XLII to the New York Giants. Perhaps you remember. The Patriots entered the game undefeated and figured they’d corner the market on 19-0.
They never got the chance.
That’s a good bet.
And if Ohio State studied the history of silly trademark requests, maybe it would reconsider its plan to pick off … “THE.”
As in: THE Ohio State University.
Which is interesting, because I thought campuses were supposed to teach us how to use words, not run off with them in the middle of the night.
Someone from that fine school would probably tell you gaining rights to this humble definite article is simply branding. An attempt to distinguish the university from, say, Ohio Northern.
I’d tell you it’s a sign of end times.
No, not END TIMES! That’s for the Falwell family to decide. Or maybe Jesus. If you believe in a fiery collapse of everything.
Chris Davey likely doesn’t see the connection between his employer’s word hoarding and the end of us. Instead, the — not THE — school’s university spokesman spun it this way to the Columbus Dispatch:
“Like other institutions, Ohio State works to vigorously protect the university’s brand and trademarks. 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.”
Cool. So a band of scarlet and gray fanatics get to own the — there it is again — word and keep it from the rest of us. You know, only the most common word in our language.
Then again, an A&E television star and a rapper once battled over the use of YUUUP. Or rather the sound of YUUUP. Not to be confused with yup, which I think we are still allowed to say.
But even that tussle isn’t as silly as Candy Crush — a video game app — trying to market the word candy. Because, you know, candy has such a narrow meaning. And no one uses it except players of that game.
The company lost. As it should have. Just as most of these attempts to pilfer from our lexicon do.
Remember, “You’re Fired!”
That was the catchphrase of our current President, Donald Trump, when he hosted a reality television show, and delighted audiences with those uplifting and meaningful words.
At least Ohio State merely wants to highlight … Ohio State.
To set its institution apart. To attach distinction. To remind anyone who utters its name that it’s best if you pause after THE. Take a breath. Then bow as you let Ohio State roll off your tongue.
That’s fine for the roughly 66,000 students who populate the campus. Fine for the professors and supervisors and alumni and even the thousands of Buckeyes’ football fans.
Use it all you want.
But give it back when you’re done. It doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to all of us.
Hopefully, THE trademark arbiters will agree.
Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.