What Oprah’s Trademark Infringement Lawsuit Means for Your Film Title
The title of your film can be everything. The difference between a memorable and forgettable title is why filmmakers pour so much effort into such a few words.
The short phrases that often make the best titles are often important to others as well, including those outside the film industry. Your film title competes with businesses from every sector for catchy phrases.
Unfortunately, this can mean your film faces the risk of a trademark infringement lawsuit if you don’t do your research. As Oprah found out in 2011, trademark owners will act to protect those memorable slogans in court.
The Story (So Far)
As TMZ recounts, it started in October 2010 when O magazine’s cover featured the phrase “Own Your Power.” That phrase was used on the O website as well, promoting a section of empowering articles. According to EW, the phrase had already been used by a company called Own Your Power Communications, and a lawsuit ensued.
LexisNexis reports that the courts originally dismissed the lawsuit in 2012, saying that the magazine had “fair use” of the phrase in the context it was used, but a federal appeals court overturned the dismissal a year later.
In 2015, the Hollywood Reporter announced that the lawsuit was dismissed a second time by the originating court. Finally, as this article reports, in September of 2016, the appeals court affirmed the ruling, effectively ending the protracted legal battle.
Film Titles and Trademarks
The implications for film and TV are clear: you have to consider more than just other established film titles. Your perfect title might conflict with established branding for a manufacturer in Cleveland, a law firm in Austin, a tech startup in Poughkeepsie, or a Latin band on the Lower East Side.
You are navigating a legal landscape where “YUUUP!” can be protected. It’s more important than ever to ensure that your film, including its title, sits on solid legal ground so you can obtain the E & O Insurance you need.
Own Your (Title) Power
When it comes to trademark infringement, your goal isn’t to prepare for a legal battle. It’s to avoid facing a lawsuit in the first place.
While many of the example cases shared above won their fights, they expended significant money and time to do so. Oprah’s case took five years to resolve!
While the intricacies of trademark law are complicated, your solution is not. A Title Report will search for trademark or other intellectual property infringements across a wide range of databases and registration sources.
It will give you peace of mind that your film title is clear of any trademark infringements. It’s also required for most E&O Insurance applications (for what must be obvious reasons by now).
Contact The Clearance Lab today, and begin mitigating your risk with a Title Report.