Monday, June 12, 2006

Who Owns Ohio?

I was recently e-mailed a link to this YouTube video, an old clip from the Today show discussing the Ohio University-OSU trademark fight from the late 90's. In 1993, OU filed for a trademark for their "attack cat" logo (seen on lots of their stuff, like their athletics website). The patent was granted in 1995, and Ohio State filed to cancel OU's trademark in 1997. The problem was that this might technically prevent Ohio from using "Ohio," which would be a problem, what with Ohio Stadium and Script Ohio and the Stadium Ohio cheer and so on and so forth. Things were eventually settled in 1998, with OU getting the trademark, and Ohio State getting to use the word "Ohio" in all the ways it's been using it. For the complete story, check out this old article from OU's student newspaper, which provided pretty much all the information for this paragraph.

The video itself is of pretty poor quality, with the audio about five or ten seconds ahead of the video, but it's interesting. It summarizes the lawsuit, then discusses which university is "Ohio." A couple Ohio State students seem to argue that we're Ohio, which seems kind of silly to me. I realize that we have Script Ohio, not Script The Ohio State University. I also realize when I yell "O-H," someone yells "I-O," not "I-O-S-T-A-T-E-U-N-I-V-E-R-S-I-T-Y," but those two cases are due to a lack of the band members and time needed to spell all that out. If I ask what school someone goes to, I know they mean OU if they say "Ohio." Further, I say I attend Ohio State (or The Ohio State University, if I'm feeling arrogant), because everyone knows Ohio refers to OU.

But maybe I'm just seeing the results of the settlement. I was in junior high when most of this was going on, so I had more important things to think about than lawsuits involving the word "Ohio." So it's interesting to look back on this situation, and see my university and OU getting so worked up about something that seems, at least on the surface, to be so unimportant.


WOUH-FM said...

Insignificant to you, I was at OU from 1994 to 1999. There is more to that story.

You see, before 1993, Ohio used a paw print as it's own logo. The problem is that Clemson University owned that trademark, and threatened to sue OU for using it without permission.

So OU held a contest to design a new logo, and the Attack Cat won some lucky high school student a full scholarship. Picture our surprise when "THE Ohio State University" made a big deal about it.

Ohio University lawyers made many concessions up front. I have OU Post clippings somewhere, where officials offered to release into the public domain, every occurrence of the word "Ohio" provided it was not immediately followed by the word "University" and printed in Green on white, or visa versa.

THE Ohio State University claimed they owned the word Ohio already, and OU had no rights to the word, what-so-ever. So, we would have to do what? Change our name to get an athletic logo? Ohio U-Est. 1804. TOSU-Est. 1870. We came first, you change your name!

This was a big deal to us. The big boys from Columbus came down to little old Athens to push us around, again. And since we don't spend the $2.9 Billion per year on football they did(and still do) this was a fight we could win.

And win we did. The Federal Judge threw this case out of court saying "Ohio" is the name of your state, and therefore is public domain." Ohio University can keep their trademark anyway, as they have demonstrated no desire to abuse enforce the "Ohio" portion in question.

In the end, though, it almost rang as a hollow victory... It should have made national news, but got overlooked, because the verdict was delivered the same day the USS Cole was bombed.

trevor said...

The USS Cole was attacked on October 12, 2000. The OSU/OU court settlement occurred on April 28, 1998.

WOUH-FM said...

Ok, ... you got me... I'm wrong... Something happened that on day... something that seemed big at the time, but God only knows what it was now. I didn't feel like researching it to be sure at 3am. So I took a guess... A bad one at that, but I was tired, and still upset the Bobcats lost to the Buck-nuts again.

And now I cannot seem to find anything that happened on or near that date would seem to have been such big news. But to the best of my recollection, everything else I said is what happened.

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