Apparently the University of South Carolina is not, officially, USC. USC is the University of Southern California. According to an article in Inside Higher Ed, yesterday the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that:

Southern Cal — not the University of South Carolina — had the rightful trademark claim to an interlocking “SC” logo employed by both institutions.

The ruling will not force South Carolina to immediately discontinue use of the logo, which is predominantly featured on baseball caps. It will, however, deny South Carolina some of the trademark protections that come with federal registration, while at the same time granting Southern Cal an opening to legally challenge South Carolina’s use of the logo.

Despite the seemingly obvious limits to any college’s ability to lay claim to a three letter acronym (there are 17,576 possible three-letter combinations available in the alphabet, though only 3,752 if one of the letters must be U or C), the acronym can be a matter of heavy legal dispute for American companies. In 2000, the World Wide Fund for Nature successfully sued the World Wrestling Federation for use of the WWF acronym. The World Wrestling Federation was forced to officially change its name to World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., or WWE.

The University of Southern California was founded in 1880. While the University of South Carolina was actually founded in 1801, the court found that the school in Columbia, South Carolina failed to establish that “SC” is exclusively restricted to the state.

South Carolina’s flagship public university has not decided whether or not it plans to appeal its case to the U.S. Supreme Court, an institution that could itself arguably lay claim to the USC acronym.

No word yet on how the Utica School of Commerce feels about this case.

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer