Oprah Winfrey, Hearst Corp., and others were dismissed last week from a trademark infringement suit in New York federal court regarding the catchphrase “Own Your Power” after the Court determined that her use of the phrase was a form of fair use.
The Plaintiff, Own Your Power, Inc. alleged that Winfrey participated in infringing the phrase on the cover of the O: The Oprah Magazine, television shows, websites and promotional events. The Court disagreed, finding that Winfrey used the mark in its descriptive manner.The fair use defense allows use of protected marks in descriptive ways, provided it does not identify the source or origin of the goods.
The cover of the magazine which spurred the dispute featured Oprah’s signature “O,” followed by “The Oprah Magazine,” a photograph of Oprah herself, and the headline phrase “Own Your Power” promoting a panel event. The Court reasoned that because the source was clearly Oprah Winfrey herself and her magazine, the Defendants’ use of the phrase was not trademark use and thus no infringement.