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Oprah Sued for Trademark Infringement Over “Own Your Power”

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Screenshot of Oprah.com's Own Your Power section on 8/1/11

Screenshot of Oprah.com on 8/1/11

Nothing like kicking off LegalZoom’s Celebrate Innovation Month with a little trademark infringement lawsuit, no?

Entertainment Weekly reports that a New Jersey woman is suing Oprah Winfrey for trademark infringement over the name of the media mogul’s latest slogan “Own Your Power” and its acronym “OYP” alleging trademark infringement.

Simone Kelly-Brown claims that as owner of Own Your Power, Inc., she has been using the phrase and “OYP” as trademarks for  her motivational services company for years and owns the trademark for it through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Kelly-Brown says her company encourages people that their “best life” is within reach if they believe it is so.

The law suit claims that Winfrey and her production company Harpo Studios started using the slogan and acronym to identify them “as advocates for individuals to ‘live [their] best life through self-awareness and motivational communication, the same type as OYP services” on the Oprah website as well as in O Magazine. The plaintiffs are focusing on the similarities between the services offered by the two companies, the likelihood of confusion (especially since both Winfrey and Kelly-Brown “both hosted Own Your Power events in the same city . . . just days apart” according to TMZ), and the fact that Winfrey has a much broader reach and cash reserve than Kelly-Brown’s small company.

The lawsuit seeks to recover damages for Oprah’s “brazenly unlawful disregard for the existence and use of [OTP’s] trademark.”

In the complaint, Kelly-Brown alleges that she has “petitioned the United States Patent & Trademark Office (‘USPTO’) to grant exclusive ownership of the federally registered word mark, ‘Own Your Power’ (Registration No. 3,434,419).”  Kelly-Brown does in fact hold the registration for a trademark on “Own Your Power,” but not as a “word” mark as she claims. The registration held by Kelly-Brown is for a logo mark that includes the literal element “Own Your Power” but is limited to depictions of those words in blue, and in a specific font.  This may prove damaging to Kelly-Brown’s lawsuit, since any words contained in a logo mark are often given less protection than if those words had been registered as a standard text or “word” mark—which Kelly-Brown has not registered.  She also does not hold any registration (and none seems to be pending, as of this writing) for “OYP.”

As of July 29, Harpo Studios told EW that it had not been served with the lawsuit and has “no information about what allegations are being made.”

Stay tuned!

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August 1st, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Posted in Intellectual Property

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