Oprah Winfrey prevails in 'Own Your Power' lawsuit

Thu Mar 5, 2015 5:54pm EST
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By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oprah Winfrey has prevailed in a trademark lawsuit challenging her use of the phrase "Own Your Power" in her namesake magazine, on TV, on websites and in social media accounts.

U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty in Manhattan ruled on Thursday that Winfrey, her company Harpo Productions Inc and her publisher Hearst Corp demonstrated that the phrase "lacks the requisite distinctiveness" to deserve trademark protection.

Crotty also said Simone Kelly-Brown, a motivational speaker and business coach who said she trademarked the phrase in 2008, and her company Own Your Power Communications Inc did not show that Winfrey's use of the phrase would likely confuse consumers.

"Though they may aspire to do so, plaintiffs present no evidence indicating a likelihood of creating a global media presence capable of attracting an audience of millions," Crotty wrote.

Patricia Lawrence-Kolaras, a lawyer for Kelly-Brown, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Jonathan Donnellan, Hearst's deputy general counsel, said the defendants are pleased with the decision.

Crotty previously dismissed the lawsuit in March 2012, only to have a federal appeals court revive it 14 months later because the defendants did not show that their use of "Own Your Power" constituted fair use.

In Thursday's decision, Crotty said the defendants made that showing by having used the phrase in good faith, in conjunction with other words and images associated with Winfrey, and to convey an "overall message of self-empowerment."   Continued...

Entertainer and producer Oprah Winfrey  at the 2015 Film Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, California February 21, 2015. REUTERS/Adrees Latif