An 'Aha Moment' About Ridiculous Trademarks, As Oprah And Mutual Of Omaha Fight Over 'Aha Moment'

from the aha! dept

Reader Trails writes in with news of the latest ridiculousness from the world of trademark law, where Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions and insurance giant Mutual of Omaha got into a bit of a spat over the term "aha moment," with both companies claiming rights over the phrase. Apparently Winfrey regularly uses the phrase "an aha moment" on her television program. Mutual of Omaha came up with a marketing campaign around "official sponsor of the aha moment" and attempted to trademark the phrase. Oprah/Harpo didn't object to the original trademark application, though they later found out about it and legal proceedings began. While none of the press reports seem to point this out, it appears that Oprah had not trademarked the phrase herself, though, she did finally apply for the trademark on "aha moment" in June of this year (nearly a year after Mutual of Omaha's application. The two sides have now "settled," but this conceivably means that anyone else who uses the phrase in areas that potentially compete with Oprah or Mutual of Omaha might find themselves in trouble as well. Of course, it's also worth noting that a graphics company in Florida appears to have filed for a trademark on "Aha moment" when used on clothing well before either Oprah or Mutual of Omaha.

Either way, this should be yet another "aha moment" of how companies are using things like trademark law to tie up and limit language, which is not (at all) it's original intended purpose.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Nov 10th, 2009 @ 10:20am

    You know what I think?

    I did a thousand facepalms for everyone involved.

     

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  2.  
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    lux (profile), Nov 10th, 2009 @ 10:25am

    What I wouldn't give to just be a fly on the wall at some of these meetings, where the debate is centered (seriously) around such a colloquial phrase that any moron in a hurry knows offhand. This is great stuff, and truly indicative of the inane legal proceedings being seen as of late.

     

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  3.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 10th, 2009 @ 10:25am

    Just wanted you to know...

    ...that I read this entire story with "Take On Me" playing on loop in my head. Thanks to you, I'll be too distracted to get any work done today.

    Clearly the work of a socialist puppy-kicking grandmother-robbing raporist if I ever saw one...

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 10:27am

    Girgle girgle spppppth! nom nom nom nom nom Ah-huuuuuuah.

    Sorry, I just spit on myself and keyboard while having an "aha moment."

    What was that again?

     

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  5.  
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    Shawn (profile), Nov 10th, 2009 @ 10:30am

    Re: Just wanted you to know...

    you are evil.

    So needless to say I'm odds and ends
    But that's me, stumbling away
    Slowly learning that life is O.K.
    Say after me
    It's no better to be safe than sorry.


    ........

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 10:32am

    Re: Just wanted you to know...

    Remember, it was a very innovative music video back in the day...

    I wonder if it's on YouTube.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 10:37am

    What we need to do is create a prior art search engine where people submit examples of prior art and where people can submit new ideas that they want to release to the public domain. That way if there is ever a prior art dispute anyone can simply search the search engine and find that the idea has already been thought of before and hence should be considered prior art since patents/copyrights/trademarks were not required to think of the idea. Then companies can specifically search the prior art database for new ideas and it will take the place of the alleged purpose of the patent database (the alleged purpose is so that people can search it for ideas that will help them but in reality people avoid it like the plague because they don't want to get accused of intentional infringement).

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 10:48am

    Re:

    I don't think that's the problem. Ideas have been floating around in one form or another for hundreds of years.

    One problem is the relative explosion and availability of computing power and disk space over the last 20 years.

    Also, the explosion of graduating attorneys in the 1980s essentially created positions and skills that needed to be justified.

    Remember, Bill Gate's Dad was an attorney.

    It used to be that people would invite people over for dinner and work their differences out, but nowadays, the problem is that too often, problems are escalated and resolved only in court.

    We have a societal problem with conflict resolution, not with a search engine.

     

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  9.  
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    Adub, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 10:59am

    This takes me back....

    This reminds me of when I was in middle school. If one of us would say something cool or witty, that person would then yell "trademark!" and no one else could use the term or phrase. Of course, that would just incite others to then use it and run it into the ground. We knew it was silly back then and it's even sillier now...

     

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  10.  
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    Patty (profile), Nov 10th, 2009 @ 11:02am

    AHA

    I think I will Trademark a HAHA Moment. It would seem to have a lot of potential uses.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 11:03am

    Re: Just wanted you to know...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    DH's love child, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 11:04am

    Re: Just wanted you to know...

    That is a true Aha Moment (or 4...)

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Tim, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 11:07am

    Her aha moment came

    while she was tending to her vajayjay

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 11:13am

    Re: Re:

    "One problem is the relative explosion and availability of computing power and disk space over the last 20 years."

    How is this a problem? This isn't a problem. This is a good thing.

     

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  15.  
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    chris (profile), Nov 10th, 2009 @ 11:19am

    Re: Just wanted you to know...

    that I read this entire story with "Take On Me" playing on loop in my head. Thanks to you, I'll be too distracted to get any work done today.

    interior crocodile alligator will remove any song that is stuck in your head, guaranteed, or your money back.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Pitabred, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 11:43am

    Re: Re: Just wanted you to know...

    I officially hate you now. Just thought you'd like to know ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Mechwarrior, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 11:46am

    I'll be copyrighting "a moment of serendipity" Thankyouverymuch.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 12:17pm

    Since there are three ah-ha moment trademark filings, does that make it a three-peat?

     

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  19.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Nov 10th, 2009 @ 12:19pm

    Re:

    I'll tell my mom to copyright "Brain Fart". For those who don't know, it's the exact opposite of an 'aha moment.

    (I don't know if she was the first person to ever say it, but she's the first and only person I've ever heard say it.)

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Trails, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 12:49pm

    Re: Her aha moment came

    Mingy?

     

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  21.  
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    vastrightwing, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 1:04pm

    Copyright thought before it's tangible

    I'm going to copyright the idea of ideas so that anything which is made tangible will have to been thought of first.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 1:48pm

    I think corporations, and people for that matter, should only be able to trademark their name. That's it.

    Whole lot of problems solved.

    That phrase I just used is actually trademarked.

     

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  23.  
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    Sean Smith, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 2:09pm

    WTF? LOL!

    Wait, is that trademarked? doh!

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Jason, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 4:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Just wanted you to know...

    In a day or twoooooooo!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Jason, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 4:42pm

    Re: AHA

    -sorry but I'm afraid that would cause confusion in the market
    -sorry but prior art: Nelson from The Simpson's
    -sorry but you're not very funny
    -sorry but I can't buy a license because I am not funny either, which is why I trademarked my

    sorry butt.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Jason, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 4:43pm

    Protecting the consumer

    I'm so glad they are fighting this out, because I was totally confused as to whether to buy insurance or a dumb idea from Oprah.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Denise Barr, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 7:56pm

    BEEN THERE, DOING THAT

    Of course, itís also worth noting that a graphics company in Florida appears to have filed for a trademark on ďAha momentĒ when used on clothing well before either Oprah or Mutual of Omaha.

    When did we lose sight of what our legal system is for? Never mind, if you donít have lots of money or time, you canít get involved in the legal system anyway. I know these are civil cases, but most of the same rules apply.

    Iím sure that graphics company in Florida is not happy with the idea of putting to a lot of money into fighting two major corporations. I can relate because Iím in the middle of fighting with a major company over my trademark. I applied first, but that seems to be just a minor road block to them. I canít afford a trademark attorney, so I am fighting this on my own. This already puts me at a disadvantage. Their basic argument is that the name is too generic to be trademarked. If this is true, then why did they attempt to register their own trademark, which was suspended because it was too similar to mine. Hmmm. This should never have gone as far as it has. After all, anyone can search the trademark web site, including the judgesí assistants to find out who has applied first. This should be a factor in determining wether litigation is warranted in the first place.

    If they win, I guarantee you that they will soon reapply and get their trademark registered. And I wonít have the resources to fight them. They actually have already used it on a product in their stores. At the very least, it has bought them time to make money off the name during this very long trial process.

    This has cost me a lot of stress and time researching the law, and dealing with attorneys who have tried to intimidate and insult me into giving up. And all because I tried to do it the right way, and ďprotectĒ myself. To add insult to injury, Iím considered the ďdefendantĒ, as if I have been accused of some wrong-doing. Unfortunately most of us little guys just cave because its just not worth it, and fighting it could result in losing the companies we are trying to protect.

    I donít think that only trademarking the name of the company will work that well either. My company name is not the same as my product name, but I do think that trademarking slogans is getting out of hand.

    I think what we need are more judges who can see through the legal jargon, to the real agenda behind these kind of attorneys and their clients.

     

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  28.  
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    taoareyou (profile), Nov 10th, 2009 @ 8:51pm

    Where will be be?

    Once every common word and phrase is copyrighted, nobody will be able to write anything without being required to pay so many fees that it becomes no longer viable to communicate in any public manner.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Pete Austin, Nov 11th, 2009 @ 1:23am

    Oprah is *REALLY* old

    ...because apparantly this phrase was in use in 1939. Anyone know what she did in the War?
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/aha+moment

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Ivo, Nov 12th, 2009 @ 12:37pm

    Yoursystem is insane

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insight
    An insight that manifests itself suddenly, such as understanding how to solve a difficult problem, is sometimes called by the German word Aha-Erlebnis. The term was coined by the German psychologist and theoretical linguist Karl B√ľhler. It is also known as an epiphany.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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