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.