After eight years of touting its rank as No. 1 in innovation among U.S. universities, ASU filed a trademark application for the word “innovation” in an effort to protect the University brand and boost its not-so-secret business empire.
President Michael Crow already owns the INOVA8 Arizona license plate and said this move is the next logical step to cement his, and the University’s, status as one of the top research universities in the country.
“I was frustrated that someone already owned the INNOV8 license plate and I had to settle for INOVA8,” Crow said. “But then, I thought to myself, the University could just take the rights to the word itself. Problem solved.”
Crow went on to add that the trademark was a “critical stepping stone in the University’s master plan to future success.”
“The trademark is certainly a step in the right direction,” one longtime ASU professor said, who requested anonymity due to fear of retaliation from University administration. “It’s only a matter of time before ASU loses its No. 1 status in innovation. If that happens, what would we have left? Everyone knows the University’s number one status.”
As usual, State Press Magazine didn’t take anyone’s word for it. Through months of research and thousands of interviews, the magazine has only found a single person in the U.S. unaware of the University’s status as No. 1 in innovation.
“ASU? Like the party school? Yeah, I’ve heard of it,” said a junior at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky. “No. 1 in innovation doesn’t ring a bell, though. What’s innovation mean again?”
The student source's parents filed a missing person’s notice about 32 hours after the State Press Magazine interview concluded.
U.S. News’ Best Colleges rankings are often an important factor when students choose which schools to apply to and attend. In 2022, ASU tied with Chapman University in Orange, California, for its overall ranking of 121 out of 443 national universities.
“Trademarking the word ‘innovative’ is perhaps one of the most innovative things the University has ever done,” said a Barrett, The Honors College professor who specializes in the intrinsic value of meaningless words. She accredited her scholarly success to ASU’s Vocabulary and Lexicon Innovation Lab for Critical Global Futures (VLILCGF), which only second-semester Barrett juniors can register for.
If the trademark is officially registered, the University will begin to sell all ASU merch with the word INNOVATE plastered front and back in varsity-style lettering, the professor said. The University also plans to sue other universities within the top 10 innovation rankings for trademark infringement.
“We take the ASU brand very seriously,” President Crow’s lawyer on retainer said. “Any other institution that uses the innovation brand will either have to annex itself into ASU or face legal challenges.”
From the rumbling buses touting the status, to the noise-canceling ear plugs outside Mirabella at ASU for residents, it’s truly a campus where anybody can feel welcome, creative and find a home. For example, in August, campus tour guides carried flaming pitchforks to keep potential students interested and help acclimate them to the heat.
“I thought the (pitchfork) was super innovative,” said one wide-eyed high school junior, who smelled faintly of burnt hair when interviewed by State Press Magazine. “All the other campuses I’ve visited had mid tours. It really embodied the Sun Devil Spirit. It did singe my hair a little bit though.”
The Tempe Police Department and the Arizona Department of Health Services placed the flaming pitchfork pilot program on hold indefinitely in September after an unfortunate incident involving an electric scooter, a cactus and a climate petitioner.
Despite the haters, the Sun Devil Spirit lives on in other ways.
A popular ASU fraternity held a philanthropic car wash for a floundering local strip club in September. Calling themselves “reverse mermaids,” frat bros wore only Speedos with fish masks covering their faces.
“I came for the strippers,” a car wash customer said. “But I have to say, they really stepped it up this year. The costume is really innovative.”
The University is always finding new ways to challenge the norm of what higher education looks like, from its commitment to making education accessible to the (non-University sponsored) award-winning porno shot on-campus in the early 2000s.
According to data from ASU’s internet provider spanning more than two decades, about 73% of people connected on the server visited porn sites every week between 1998 and 2001. At the time of the on-campus porno’s release in 2002, that number shot up to 99%.
As a part of the University’s reinvigorated Innovation campaign, a new undergraduate minor in adult film is available for film and performance majors.
“I applaud the University for staying on top of its goals and letting its dreams come to fruition. I truly believe that we will reach a whole new audience with this minor,” the director of the program said.
“At the time, we wanted ASU to break out of the Playboy magazines and into Time or Forbes,” a representative close to Crow said. “Now, we make our own magazines.”
While “innovation” can be a tricky word to define, ASU embodies the status through its variety of research labs, online learning and not-so-typical campus housing.
“Not every student expects to live in a hotel in the first year of college,” a University Housing spokesperson said. “We’re changing the way that students look at the first-year college experience and innovating new ways for universities to grow: students first, then housing.”
Some of the country is still centuries behind ASU’s forward thinking and is unprepared to face the future of schooling that the University offers.
“We’re running out of forks,” said a hotel manager of a local hotel, which the University booked for its overflow of first-year students. “They just keep taking them, I don’t know why. Our chefs are overworked, all of our housekeepers quit and we’ve had a strange issue of stolen exit signs that have totaled over $10,000 in damages.”
The University and the hotel are currently embroiled in a lawsuit because the hotel chain refused to allow on-site nurses for Mirabella residents who moved into the hotel in order to better relive the college experience.
In place of on-site nurses, retired ASU alumni have been forced to use Starship robots to deliver their medication and food. This has resulted in multiple medication mix-ups, missed meals because residents couldn’t figure out how to open the machines and two occasions of robots running over residents, according to a statement from ASU Police.
While Mirabella residents are a part of the ASU community, one 18-year-old freshman was shocked to bump into his paternal grandmother at a Halloween party.
“I literally just arrived when I saw some chick in a Playboy Bunny costume come up to me from the corner of my eye,” he said. "I nearly passed out when I realized it was my granny Beth.”
While the youngins might not like it, some of the older residents sure do.
“I missed the dorm parties, the instant ramen and the thin walls,” Beth, an 81-year-old ASU student, said. “Seeing what my grandson is up to is always a plus, too. He always forgets to call.”
No one but the most innovative university in the country could imagine such a diverse, inclusive design for a top research institution.
ASU is about the ever-evolving nature of the human race, the increasingly complex relationships between people and society and the need for humans to always improve — to innovate.
“ASU has transcended the bounds of traditional higher education and sky-rocketed into its own universe of untapped potential,” a University spokesperson said. “From now onward, the University declares itself a business empire. With the brightest minds at work, we can build a legacy that no one will forget.”
Students at ASU will soon be required to submit daily reports of all the work they have done for the University. Students who recommend ASU to a friend will receive 50% off their next purchase at the Sun Devil Store and those who get their friends to commit to the University will receive a $1,000 discount on their tuition the next semester.
An ASU representative said the trademark application is part of the University’s ongoing effort to “reclaim its narrative.” The representative spoke tentatively about ASU breaking into the NASDAQ in 2025.
“What is a University? We’re a public institution, we get no funding from the government and we have to find our own ways to sustain our growth,” they said. “We expect to be a publicly traded company within the next three years.”
No. 1 in innovation was never enough. ASU now aims to be the top globally traded company in the world.
Analysts at ASU’s Market Watch Predictions and Stock Market Investors Innovation Lab (MWPSMIIL) predict that stocks for Google, Amazon and Meta will collapse after the publication of this article.
“They’re afraid of what’s to come. While they were dilly-dallying with invasions of privacy and all those apps, we were training the future of their workforce so that we can watch their empires crumble from beneath them,” a source close to Crow said. “And we will do nothing but laugh.”
Edited by Alexis Moulton, Camila Pedrosa, Sam Ellefson, Greta Forslund and Kristen Apolline Castillo. This story was published on Nov. 14, 2022.
Editor's note: The opinions presented in this column are the author's and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
Keetra Bippus is a reporter for State Press Magazine and a journalism student at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She's previously reported for AZ Big Media and the Downtown Devil.