Jackson Walker Successfully Defends Oprah in Trademark Suit Over ‘Own Your Power’

March 18, 2015 | Client Results

On March 5, 2015, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed, for the second time, a trademark infringement lawsuit brought against Oprah Winfrey, her company Harpo Productions Inc., and the Hearst Corp. over the use of the phrase “Own Your Power” in the defendants’ magazine, events, and other communications.

U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty first dismissed the lawsuit in March of 2012, finding that Ms. Winfrey had engaged in protected fair use of the phrase. On appeal, the Second Circuit affirmed the court’s dismissal of the plaintiffs’ vicarious infringement, contributory infringement, and counterfeiting claims, but vacated the court’s order with respect to plaintiffs’ trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and reverse confusion claims.

In his opinion published on March 5, Judge Crotty ruled that the phrase “Own Your Power” “lacks the requisite distinctiveness to be entitled to trademark protection” and that “even if the phrase were protected, there is not a shred of evidence establishing a likelihood of consumer confusion.” Based on its findings, the court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment in its entirety and denied the plaintiff’ motion for partial summary judgment.

Ms. Winfrey and the other defendants were represented by Jackson Walker partners Chip Babcock, Nancy W. Hamilton, Carl Butzer, and associate Amanda Zimmerman, and Jonathan Donnellan and Ravi Sitwala of the Hearst Corp. The successful result in this case demonstrates the strength of Jackson Walker’s Media Law practice, which is one of the most prominent in the country, and the firm’s powerful and experienced Intellectual Property Litigation group.