Oprah, an entrepreneur, and a trademark walk into a courtroom.
Did I get your attention?
It’s a true life scenario….
Meet Simone. Simone is a coach and owner of Own Your Power Communications.
A whopping 15 years ago (yes, 15!), Simone trademarked the words “Own Your Power” as a part of her business.
It was a wise move by a smart entrepreneur to invest in her work and protect the heart of her brand.
Then along comes Oprah.
Oprah puts the words “Own Your Power” smack on the October 2010 cover of Oprah magazine.
It’s not surprising that Simone believed that Oprah’s use of the words violated her trademark rights. After all, Oprah used the EXACT words that she had trademarked 15 years ago!
Here’s how it went down: Simone has the trademark to “Own Your Power”. Simone sues Oprah for violating her trademark… and Oprah wins.
WHAT?! How did that happen?
I mean, we all know she’s OPRAH!!! – but seriously, how did she win?
The whole point of trademarking is to give you the rights to use words in a particular context, and to stop others from using them in a similar way.
So how could Oprah have won the case? She won NOT because she is Oprah (believe it or not!), but because Simone’s trademark application description wasn’t written in an ironclad way.
What does that mean exactly? Let me explain.
There are 3 basic reasons why the judge ruled for Oprah and not for Simone (and I am summarizing here):
Reason #1: The judge said that Simone’s trademark description of “Own Your Power” wasn’t “distinctive” enough.
The easiest way to explain it is the description that Simone used in her trademark application wasn’t written in a way that was descriptive enough to prevent someone else in a similar field from also using it.
And because the description wasn’t specific enough, there was room for Oprah to get in the back door.
So let me shout it from the mountaintops: The words you use in your trademark application are so freaking important.
You want to be sure they are precise and descriptive – and keep the back door shut! (This is where the help of a lawyer comes in.)
Reason #2: The judge said that Simone hadn’t provided enough proof to show that “Own Your Power” was widely recognizable as a part of her brand.
I’m paraphrasing here (to make this legal info easier to digest)– but the judge basically said that Simone hadn’t included enough evidence of media coverage or other studies showing that “Own Your Power” was key to Simone’s brand.
She needed to show more evidence (called “proof of use”) to show that when people read or heard the words “Own Your Power”, they immediately associated it with Simone and her business.
Reason #3: The judge ruled that there was not a “likelihood of confusion” between the two brands.
In general, when you file a trademark case, you are basically saying that someone violated your trademark in a way that causes a “likelihood of confusion” between your brand and another, and that people will mix up your brands, which devalues your intellectual property.
The judge ruled in this case that it wasn’t super-likely that people would confuse Simone’s brand with Oprah’s.
Not surprising, right?
I don’t know of ANYONE whose brand could be confused with Oprah’s. She totally stands in a league of her own.
So that’s what happened. And that’s why Oprah won.
But you know what is MOST interesting of all?
The case was over the words “Own Your Power.”
OWN YOUR POWER.
Let me tell ya, Simone sure owned her power when she stood up to Oprah. I haven’t shared all the details here (cause it was a long legal process), but Simone actually first brought her case in federal court, then it went up to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, and then the case was remanded and sent back to the lower court where the decision finally was made and Oprah won.
Simone endured 3 rounds of court battles to fight for her rights. 3 rounds! WHEW!
Simone CERTAINLY owned every ounce of her power.
Trademarking is one of the highest legal rights that can be given to an individual to protect your unique, creative work. It’s such a high-frequency right that I align it with your crown chakra which correlates with your highest potential.
So you may be wondering…. “Is it even worth it to trademark something when I may not even win in a dispute?”
Let me assure you, it’s worth every penny. Trademarks are like gold and protect you immensely. I myself have two trademarks – for Legal Coach® and Holistic Lawyer®.
Trademark disputes depend on multiple factors, but they often hinge on trademark descriptions.
If you remember NOTHING else that I’ve said, remember this: Your trademark description has to be spot-on and really specific, or it may have holes that don’t really protect you.
I am not kidding when I say that you need to use a lawyer to help you. Trademarking looks so deceptively easy and simple….but it can really be tricky! #donottrademarkalone #icanhelp
And, OH! One more thing that I am so excited to share!
If you want info about trademarks, you will be excited to hear that COMING IN APRIL, you’ll be able to get legally protected through my GROUP LEGAL COURSE! The 8-week course will include DIY legal documents, videos, audios, weekly calls, and MUCH more at an affordable rate – including a Trademark Assessment to know if your tagline or biz name is ready to trademark. Watch your inbox and stay tuned for more!
Here’s to trademarking, new courses, and to OWNING YOUR POWER!