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.

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Companies: harpo productions, mutual of omaha

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

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Anonymous Coward says:

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).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Denise Barr (user link) says:


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.

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

I?m 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 I?m 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 can?t 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 judges? 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 won?t 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 ?protect? myself. To add insult to injury, I?m considered the ?defendant?, 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 don?t 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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