The following blog post has been re-printed with the permission of the author, attorney Cheryl Hodgson who has done two great “Ask” calls, the most recent on January 20, 2010. Read on to get some interesting food for thought about trademarks.
“Aha moment.” What do you think of when you hear that phrase? Or should I ask who do you think of? Oprah Winfrey would like it to be her! However, after her recent settlement with Mutual of Omaha insurance company, she might not be the only one that can use the popular phrase.
Oprah’s production company, Harpo Productions, had originally claimed that “aha moment” was a trademark from her television show. At oprah.com, you will find numerous videos showing the “aha moments” of various celebrity guests. Some of those moments include, “finding a different kind of happiness, learning to prioritize, and the courage to do something new.”
Harpo learned that Mutual of Omaha was using the slogan “official sponsor of the aha moment,” and sent them a letter asking them to stop use. Omaha responded by filing a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Omaha arguing that they had already been granted preliminary approval of a federal trademark for the slogan.
Harpo had previously applied for trademark protection of “aha moments” in entertainment services and in magazines, while Omaha applied to register “Proud sponsor of life’s aha moments,” “Official sponsor of life’s aha moments,” and “Celebrating life’s aha moments” in the insurance industry.
In doing a Google search, I found that Omaha also owns the domain <ahamoment.com> where they describe “A moment of clarity, the aha moment is a defining moment where you gain real wisdom—wisdom you can use to change your life.”
Even though Oprah had made the mark famous, Omaha alleged that she failed to police the mark and there was no opposition to its trademark application. The case was settled out of court. This story can be your “aha moment” in brand protection. I’ve written much about the importance of developing and maintaining a trademark monitoring program. Read our earlier post: http://brandaideblog.com. Enforcement means having a watch program in place to monitor new filings and counsel to give prompt notice of potential conflicts. Failure to police can mean complete loss of rights.
This all might not even matter much longer anyway, now that Oprah has officially announced her talk show will end September 9, 2011. Aha…
For more information on the importance of policing and monitoring your trademarks in the digital age, sign up for our blog and we’ll send you a free chapter from the Guide to Building and Protecting a Valuable Brand on the Internet, based upon the INSURE™ Brand Protect Sequence.
The lesson I learned? If you register a trademark, you better watch and enforce your rights because the “You Snooze, You Lose” rule applies!
Learn more about and from Cheryl Hodgson on her blog at www.BrandAideBlog.com. Watch for new art licensing information products from her in the near future!
P.S. Get your free copy of Cheryl’s first “Art Licensing Info Monthly Ask Call” July 2009 mp3 replay if you haven’t already. The January 20, 2010 audio replay (1 hour long) is available for $15 thru 1/31 and $25 after that.