On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty ruled that Oprah Winfrey may use the phrase “Own Your Power,” ending a trademark battle that started in 2011. Ruling in favor of Oprah, the judge found that Oprah demonstrated that the phrase “lack[ed] the requisite distinctiveness” to warrant trademark protection.
The suit was brought by Simone Kelly-Brown, a motivational speaker and business coach, who runs Own Your Power Communications, Inc. She argued that the phrase was registered in 2008. Then in 2010, the Oprah Magazine began using the phrase “Own Your Power” in its publications and hosted an “Own Your Power” event that included a seminar focusing on self-motivation. Oprah also used the phrase on TV, websites, and in social media accounts.
Judge Crotty initially dismissed the suit in 2012, but on Kelly-Brown’s appeal, the appeals court revived the case in 2013. On remand, he concluded that Kelly-Brown failed to show that Oprah’s use of the phrase would likely confuse consumers. Judge Crotty wrote, “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.” Further, he wrote Oprah established that she used the phrase in good faith and to covey an “overall message of self-empowerment.”
Patricia Lawrence-Kolaras, an attorney representing Kelly-Brown, said that her client would appeal the decision.