With the amount of legal issues that seem to follow around media mogul Oprah Winfrey, perhaps we should turn this into a recurring weekly column.
Winfrey, the beloved talk-show host who now overseas her own network, OWN, is heading back to court over the phrase "Own Your Power." In 2010 Winfrey was sued by Simone Kelly-Brown, who had that phrase trademarked since 1996. The Oprah Magazine used a photo of Winfrey (as she appears on every cover) along with that phrase. It also hosted an event that used the phrase and it even appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
A federal judge tossed the lawsuit last year, saying that Winfrey had a fair use to it.
However, earlier today an appeals court vacated that ruling, which revived the lawsuit and remanded it for further proceedings.
In order to win via fair use, Circuit Judge Chester Straub said that Winfrey would have had to use the phrase other than as a mark, in a descriptive sense and in good faith.
He added that it did appear that Winfrey was attempting to use it as a trademark.
"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," he stated. "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."