For decades, many have affectionately referred to Pennsylvania State University, nestled in the mountainous central region of the state, as “Happy Valley.”
But the moniker was never official, as in documented by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
With a filing last month to that office, the university wants to own the Happy Valley trademark for merchandise, including shirts, sweatshirts and head wear. Its application depicts a navy-blue T-shirt with “Happy Valley” in white letters and a Nittany Lion head.
The school decided to file the application after the previous owner of the merchandising trademark — Nittany Embroidery & Digitizing — relinquished it, said Rachel Pell, a university spokeswoman.
“The purpose of it was to make sure it’s not used for nefarious purposes,” Pell said. “This is more about an opportunity to safeguard it for future use.”
A lot of companies and groups have used the trademark in the past. A California butter and frozen-egg company appears to have been the first in 1964. Among the others were a toy play-set company in Hong Kong, a luggage company in Nevada, an entertainment and services company in New York, and a cigarette and tobacco company in Virginia.
Currently, the only other group using the two-word name alone is an alcoholic beverage company based in Santiago, Chile, according to the government website.
As early as the 1950s, Penn State and the surrounding area were referred to as Happy Valley, according to the university’s website.
“But the term apparently became far more widely used and recognized starting in the late 1960s, about the time when network telecasts of Nittany Lions football games began, and thus might be attributed to sports writers and broadcasters,” the website said.
The university notes there is no official location in Centre County with that name.
“Happy Valley is generally used in an informal or even a slang context, often by journalists, and is not part of the university’s official style,” the school website says.
If Penn State is successful in its application, first reported in the Centre Daily Times, that won’t preclude others from seeking the trademark for different products.
A company involved in the cannabis industry had filed an application to use Happy Valley in 2017 but withdrew it last year, a government spokesman said.
Penn State doesn’t intend to prohibit other State College businesses from using Happy Valley. In fact, said Pell, the school plans to meet with local government and business leaders in the next few weeks to come up with a plan for the shared use of the name.
Barbara Doran, a member of Penn State’s board of trustees, endorsed the university’s decision to move on the trademark.