Ruling Forces Oprah Winfrey Back Into Court THR
An appeals court has dealt a setback to Oprah Winfrey. The Hollywood Reporter’s Hollywood, Esq., reports that Winfrey will have to defend herself in a trademark lawsuit against her after the ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
“In 2010, the media queen was sued by a motivational entrepreneur named Simone Kelly-Brown who has held a trademark registration on ‘Own Your Power’ since 1996,” THR reports. “The woman claimed that The Oprah Magazine featured on its cover a photograph of Winfrey and the headline, ‘Own Your Power,’ held an ‘Own Your Power’ corporate-sponsored event in conjunction with a Power Issue, and promoted it on an episode of ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show.’”
The trademark suit was dismissed last year in federal court, with a judge ruling that “there could be no confusion about the source and that Winfrey had a fair use right to descriptively label her magazine,” the story reports. But the appeals court today vacated that ruling, reopening the case and setting up further court proceedings.
“In the opinion, Circuit Judge Chester Straub notes that to prevail on a fair use defense, a defendant like Winfrey has to show that the use was made other than as a mark, in a descriptive sense and in good faith,” THR reports. “On the first prong, the judge says that the plaintiff has sufficiently alleged that Oprah was attempting to make use of a trademark, particularly in the wide-ranging, varied and repeated way it used the catchphrase.”
The appellate judge wrote: "We thus conclude that Kelly-Brown has plausibly alleged that Oprah was attempting to build a new segment of her media empire around the theme or catchphrase 'Own Your Power,' beginning with the October Issue and expanding outward from there. Kelly-Brown’s complaint implies that Oprah is a brand and is therefore the ultimate source of all things related to that brand, but that defendants sought to use the phrase 'Own Your Power' to denote a particular line of services and content within the larger Oprah brand."