Ohio State's Block 'O' logo, left, and the logo for Overtime.tv (Photo: Provided)
A New York-based sports network filed suit in federal court Monday in a trademark dispute with Ohio State University over the letter “O.”
Overtime Sports Inc., a digital programming provider started in 2016 with a focus on high school basketball and football athletes, wants a legal declaration allowing the continued use of its “O” mark, following a cease and desist letter issued by the university this year.
According to the federal suit, “The differences between the parties’ trademarks and manners of use prevent any likelihood of confusion. ... There are numerous O marks, O-formative marks, and O designs in use by third parties in connection with the relevant goods and services, such that consumers will not presume that all goods and services offered under O or O-formative marks emanate from a common source.”
The university countered in a July letter, however, that “there can be no doubt that when the vast majority of people see a Block ‘O,’ they associate it with Ohio State and its Block O Marks.”
Overtime Sports applied to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this year to register its “O” mark, described in court documents as “distinctive in large part to its sloping corners within each of its concentric shapes, which contrast with the sharp-cornered rectangle at its center.”
Trademarks used by OSU, on the other hand, “feature an octagonal shape in each of its concentric shapes,” the company alleged in court documents. “They contain neither any rounded edge nor any rectangle.”
Ohio State says it sought an “amicable resolution” to the dispute this summer, asking Overtime Sports to phase out its current “O” usage and revise the design so its “O” was “completely rounded.”
With no such resolution forthcoming, Ohio State filed its formal opposition to the registration.
Spokesman Chris Davey said Ohio State does not comment on pending litigation.
On the larger trademark issue, he said in an emailed statement that OSU “works to protect the university’s brand and trademarks because these assets hold significant value, which benefits our students and faculty and the broader community by supporting teaching, research and service.
“Licensing royalties are earmarked to support the student experience at Ohio State by funding scholarships and programming,” Davey said. “Total revenue last year was $15.5 million and totals $207 million since the licensing program was established in 1980.”
Overtime filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York Monday, noting that the university “has been coexisting with Overtime without any confusion and without preventing either Ohio State or Overtime from maintaining goodwill and commercial impressions in their respective marks.”
The university’s opposition, the company argued, placed Overtime “in the untenable position of not knowing if or when defendant may sue or take action ... or otherwise interfere with Overtime’s selling, advertising and promotion of its sports programming business or goods offered in connection with such business.”
The lawsuit seeks a jury trial, a formal declaration barring Ohio State from future legal action against Overtime and its “O,” and any applicable compensation.