'OHIO' dispute leaves historic paper trail

Now that the dispute between Ohio University and Ohio State University over the trademark of the word "OHIO" has been settled, Douglas McCabe can get back to his regular job.

No, he's not the university's lawyer. He's the guy who's spent hundreds of hours scouring old newspapers, yearbooks and other records for "evidence."

From the beginning of 1998 to April 1999, when the trademark dispute was settled, McCabe and a team of students were charged with finding examples of the longtime use of the word "Ohio" to describe Ohio University. They found as many as 7,000 references, enough to cover a conference table with 4-foot-high stacks of documentation.
Photo by Rick Fatica
Rick Fatica
"We knew we had to go through everything, literally everything, including old campus, Athens and Columbus newspapers; student scrapbooks; artifacts; photographs; and university bulletins," says McCabe, curator of manuscripts for Alden Library.

The historical collection was helpful as evidence of the widespread use of "Ohio," says Director of Legal Affairs John Burns. Ohio University trademarked the word in all capital letters, as it is commonly used on clothing and other merchandise.

"Doug and his staff's search of the university's archives was extremely helpful in showing the media, state leaders and others that Ohio University has indeed been known as 'Ohio' for more than 100 years," Burns says.

A truce was called in the "Battle of Ohio" in late April after Ohio University President Robert Glidden and Ohio State University President William Kirwan reached an agreement in the 16-month trademark dispute between the two schools. Following talks between Glidden and Kirwan, Ohio State agreed to drop its challenge of Ohio Universityís federal trademark of the word "OHIO."

The agreement gives Ohio University exclusive rights to "OHIO" for athletic uniforms, apparel and merchandise, but allows Ohio State to use the word in certain traditional instances, such as "Script Ohio," Ohio Stadium and for commemorative merchandise.

Ohio University was granted the "OHIO" trademark in May 1995. The university later sought to trademark the "Attack Cat" logo for uniforms, apparel and merchandise. Ohio State filed a complaint with the Federal Trademark Office in 1997, challenging Ohio University's claim to the trademarks.

In the search for evidence, the earliest reference to Ohio University as "Ohio" was found in a letter written in 1876 to the president of the university. Library staff also found references to "Ohio" in a 1921 sports article in The New York Times and in Columbus Dispatch stories published in the late 1800s. They even discovered examples referring to Ohio University simply as "Ohio" in Ohio State's yearbook beginning in 1901 and its student newspaper, The Lantern, beginning in 1903.

"The search was a very long process, but it was kind of fun," McCabe says. "I certainly became a lot more familiar with our university archive collections."

-Melissa Rake
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