On Monday, the Supreme Court refuse to hear an appeal over Oprah’s use of the OWN YOUR POWER trademark on her magazine. The long festering dispute looks finally to be coming to a close after six years.
In July 2011, Simone Kelly-Brown sued Oprah Winfrey, Harpo Productions Inc. and Oprah’s magazine publisher Hearst Corp. for alleged violations of Kelly-Brown’s trademark “Own Your Power.” The suit was brought after a 2010 issue of Oprah’s magazine carried an “Own Your Power” theme throughout the issue, both on the cover and in articles. In addition, Oprah hosted an “Own Your Power” event that same year. Kelly-Brown also sued other major corporations that sponsored the event. Kelly-Brown uses the trademark “Own Your Power” in connection with her company which provides motivational services.
Kelly-Brown alleged, among other things, that Oprah’s actions constituted “reverse confusion,” meaning people would mistakenly think that she stole the trademark from Oprah even though she did not. In fact, the Kelly-Brown registered “Own Your Power” around the same time Oprah registered “OWN” for her new television network. However, the District Court disagreed and dismissed all claims against Oprah finding that her use of the trademark constituted Fair Use, an exception to trademark infringement.
Oprah’s attorneys contend that it is not the phrase “Own Your Power” that is protected, but a specific graphic representation as seen to the right. They also argue that the phrase is not distinct enough to be entitled to protection and that it has no secondary meaning. They argue that even assuming the mark is eligible for protection that Oprah’s usage is protected under the Fair Use doctrine.
On Monday, the Supreme Court decided, without comment, to hear the appeal on the case by Kelly-Brown. The ruling all but confirms the decision and this dispute looks to be at an end. Now, time to pay for six years worth of legal fees by both sides.