For a few years now, University of South Carolina students have struggled to decide whether they’re from UofSC or USC.
I graduated from the University of South Carolina. When I attended the school — and all the years before — we knew the school as USC. But thanks to a trademark lawsuit, we Gamecocks have to adjust between calling it UofSC or USC.
The University of South Carolina traces its origins to Dec. 19, 1801, when the state established its precursor, South Carolina College. Its website states the school began as an effort to ” unite South Carolinians in the wake of the American Revolution.”
In 1801, there were about 16 states in the United States of America. That was 49 years before California became a state.
South Carolina College closed for five years in 1861 as the Civil War began. But state leaders revived it in 1866 as the University of South Carolina.
By 1866, California had been a state for 16 years. The University of Southern California, that other USC, didn’t begin until Oct. 6, 1880, nearly eight decades after the University of South Carolina’s original start.
Both schools claimed the initials USC, of course, because they rolled off the tongue and were easy to remember.
What the letters meant to you largely depended on where you were from. East of the Mississippi River, most people thought of South Carolina when they heard or saw USC. On the west side, though, more immediately thought of California.
So how did ‘UofSC’ enter the picture?
Back in January of 2019, the University of South Carolina released new logos with this UofSC branding.
“New year. Fresh look. More soon,” their tweet stated. No major announcement, no immediate explanation.
The addition of the of didn’t delight some USC — excuse me, UofSC — fans.
“Did your rebranding effort seriously involve conceding USC to that school in California? I think you forgot to take into account the pride every one of us feels when we see USC,” Twitter user Bill Kay posted. “Can we still call ourselves Carolina, or are you punting on that, too?”
Oh, we still call ourselves “Carolina.” But University of North Carolina fans refer to their school that way, too. So that causes its own degree of confusion. That’s another post for another day, however.
But it wasn’t that the University of South Carolina “forgot” to consider pride in those initials, as Kay suggested. A federal court made that call for them when it took up a lawsuit filed by “that school in California” nearly a decade earlier.
Back in 2010, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a 2009 decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office review board to recognize the University of Southern California’s century-old claim to the logo letters.
In other words, “that school in Californa” won the legal trademark rights to USC.
CORRECTION: Since this post originally went up, I have learned that the lawsuit, according to University of South Carolina spokesman Jeff Stensland, involved an “an interlocking SC one of the sports team was using, not “USC” itself.“
So the University of South Carolina, apparently decided shortly thereafter to acknowledge itself as UofSC.
‘We were here first’
A couple of years after the official introduction of the new look, some UofSC fans still resist that new branding. They argue, and always will, that the South Carolina USC was here well before the California USC was.
As I pointed out at the top of this post just for context, South Carolina’s school was here before California even existed as a state.
But unfortunately, it’s not just about who was here first. It’s about who set forth a legal claim on the initials and who maintained that identity better and more effectively over the years.
Apparently, the University of Southern California convinced the judges they did. So even though that USC came second chronologically, it came out on top in court.
When people ask me where I went to college, I say “USC.” I will usually, in fact, say, “USC in Columbia.”
It seems to me if they can’t figure out that Columbia is in South Carolina, they won’t care which state “USC” is in.
Saying “UofSC” seems so awkward after literally a lifetime of saying “USC” that I’ll probably never make the verbal switch.
I’m a Gamecock, not a Trojan. But I went to USC, not UofSC.