Penn State files application to trademark ‘Happy Valley’

Old Main on Aug. 20, 2018.
Old Main on Aug. 20, 2018. Centre Daily Times, file

Penn State University wants to trademark “Happy Valley,” according to a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office filing.

The trademark application, which was submitted Dec. 4, said the intent is to use the moniker on officially licensed headwear, shirts and sweatshirts. The term was previously registered to another entity, who chose not to renew the registration.

“There is now an opportunity to not only continue using the term appropriately, but also to protect against possible improper use of the federal registration of Happy Valley by a third party. For example, not allowing a vendor to tie the term with the promotion of excessive drinking,” Rachel Pell, associate vice president for strategic communications, wrote in an email. “Penn State recognizes the importance of this term to the community and is committed to working with local government and business leaders. We will be meeting with local stakeholders in the coming months.”

Pell also said the university “believed this was important for furtherance of its town and gown relationship” in a subsequent email.

“The university and local entities have been fortunate that the previous owner did not try to preclude the university and local entities ability to use the term,” Pell wrote. “If successful with its trademark application, Penn State does not plan to charge those local entities that currently use ‘Happy Valley’ on apparel.”

According to a Town & Gown article, the term rose to prominence in 1962 after a Centre Daily Times columnist wrote an article headlined “Happy Valley and the Jet Age.”

Katey Lehman said her husband, Ross, mistook a clap of thunder for the sound of a jet and then recalled the first time she heard a jet.

“I knew very well that it wasn’t thunder, but having never heard it before, I had to think for a minute before I realized that even our happy little valley is subject to the jet age,” Lehman wrote.

According to Penn State’s website, the term became more widely used and recognized in the late 1960s when the Nittany Lions’ football games were televised and attributed it to sports writers and broadcasters.

The Town & Gown article also cites a research paper completed by Jan Gibeling in 2000.

“From an innocuous beginning, the expression ‘Happy Valley’ has gradually gained in popularity. It is now used nationwide by major network sports announcers when broadcasting college sports, by weathermen when reporting the weather for our area, and by The Weather Channel, to name a few,” Gibeling said. “As reported in the New York Times in an article dated July 22, 1981 ... ‘many of the people who can live anywhere prefer the unhurried life of a college town. Even traveling salesmen, tired of cities and suburbs, have been settling in what they call ‘the happy valley,’ where rolling farmland and villages are surrounded by forest-covered Appalachian ridges.’ ”

Clothing sporting “Happy Valley” is sold at various locations in downtown State College.

Bret Pallotto primarily reports on courts and crime for the Centre Daily Times. He grew up in Lewistown and graduated from Lock Haven University.