Bar-On Brief: We are the rightful owners of the abbreviation “USC”

Bar-On Brief: We are the rightful owners of the abbreviation “USC”


Type in three letters — “U,” “S” and “C” — into a Google search and the vast majority of the search results will lead you to something related to the University of Southern California. If someone talks about USC within California, people will certainly assume they are referring to the university in Los Angeles. But the farther east someone travels, the more likely those same three letters come to refer to a different college: the University of South Carolina.

For those who believe the University of South Carolina is the rightful owner of the abbreviated title “USC,”  I’m sorry to say they are simply wrong. The USC of Los Angeles has triumphed in ownership of its name.

The University of South Carolina decided last week that it will no longer compete with the University of Southern California for the naming rights to “USC.” The South Carolina college rebranded its school logo under the new acronym “UofSC.”

The rebrand costed a lump sum of $238,000 on research and design, according to University of South Carolina spokesperson Wes Hickman. However, the UofSC community has not been the most receptive to the changes.

South Carolina previously tried using an interlocked “SC” on its baseball caps, but the Trojans sued and won in 2010. Notably — and hilariously — in commenting on our victory in the trademark case, USC’s lawyer Scott Edelman told the Los Angeles Times the letters deserved to be linked to the Trojans rather than “a goofy little chicken,” referring to South Carolina’s mascot, the gamecock.

UofSC may think it was the first to coin the abbreviation “USC” because the university was founded 79 years before USC, but UofSC’s original name was South Carolina College. It only became the flagship school of South Carolina public school system when it was implemented in the 1950s. By then, the University of Southern California was already well established.

A simple Google Trends analysis reveals that when people search for “UofSC,” they almost always are searching for the South Carolina school — most of the searches also come from South Carolina and other states in the South. When it comes to “USC,” the results are more complicated.

Sure, the highest concentration, proportionally, of USC searches come from South Carolina, but this is simply because there are more people living in California, and the searches compared to the population is much lower. In fact, the county of Los Angeles alone has double the population of the entire state of South Carolina, so the concentration of “USC” searches is naturally lower in a more populous area.

The clearest indicator of what “USC” really means to people around the country is what links they click on when making these searches. The top related searches people make after a search for “USC” all have to do with Trojan football. This makes it abundantly clear that USC more often referring to the Los Angeles university.

Thanks to Google search data, the court’s previous trademark ruling and the rebranding from last week, USC can respond to UofSC with its Latin motto, “Palmam qui meruit ferat,” or in English, “Let whoever earns the palm, bear it.”

We’ve certainly earned it. After all, it’s not really a competition. But if it were, we would be the clear victors. Fight on.

Shauli Bar-On is a sophomore writing about sociopolitical issues. His column, “The Bar-On Brief” runs every other Tuesday.

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