Oprah must face lawsuit over 'Own Your Power': appeals court

Fri May 31, 2013 5:32pm EDT
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By Erin Geiger Smith

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oprah Winfrey will have to defend in court her use of the phrase "Own Your Power" in her magazine and on her website, a U.S. appeals court said on Friday.

Overturning a lower court ruling, the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals revived claims brought by Simone Kelly-Brown, owner of a motivational services business, Own Your Power Communications Inc, who says she owns a trademark on the phrase.

The case should go forward, the appeals court said, because it was possible Winfrey was "attempting to build a new segment of her media empire" around the phrase "Own Your Power."

The court said it was also possible information could come out during the case that would undermine that theory.

Winfrey and her company, Harpo Inc, have repeatedly used the phrase, including for a September 2010 "Own Your Power" promotional event and on the cover of the October 2010 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, the opinion said.

Winfrey's continuous use of the phrase could become "symbolic shorthand" for her products and message as a whole, the court said.

Winfrey is one of the most popular talk-show hosts in history and now runs the cable network OWN in a joint venture with Discovery Communications Inc.

Hearst Corp, which publishes O, The Oprah Magazine, and Estee Lauder Companies Inc are defendants in the lawsuit along with Harpo. Estee Lauder was one of the corporate sponsors of the "Own Your Power" promotional event.   Continued...

Media mogul Oprah Winfrey delivers the commencement address during Harvard University's 362nd Commencement Exercises in Cambridge, Massachusetts May 30, 2013. REUTERS/Brian Snyder