Oprahdemics: Oprah’s Harpo Sues Podcast Hosts For Attempting To Capitalize Off Of Her Name Without Authorization
Photo Credit: Andrew Chin

Oprahdemics: Oprah’s Harpo Sues Podcast Hosts For Attempting To Capitalize Off Of Her Name Without Authorization

Oprah Winfrey’s company has filed a trademark infringement suit against the hosts of the Oprahdemics podcast.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Kellie Carter Jackson and Leah Wright Rigueur are being sued by Harpo Inc. for their Oprahdemics podcast. Harpo Inc., which owns Winfrey’s trademark, believes users are being misled under the notion that Winfrey is involved with their platform.

“Her fame is so extensive that she is instantly recognized by her first name Oprah alone,” wrote attorney Tamara Carmichael of Dorsey & Whitney in the complaint.

What The Co-Hosts Are Being Sued For

Oprahdemics launched in March 2022 and the first season featured 15 episodes. The brand’s logo also features key art that includes a large “O” and the outstretched arms of a woman. In addition, Jackson and Rigueur run various social media platforms and oprahdemics.com.

The co-hosts have also promoted the show on major airways including, Good Morning America, and have earned profits through ticket sales for a live event in New York. The complaint also states Harpo. Inc has asked the pair to change the brand and logo, but there has been inaction.

“Defendants’ use of the OPRAHDEMICS trademark and OPRAHDEMICS O Logo is not authorized by Harpo and was undertaken in bad faith by virtue of their intent to exploit the goodwill and reputation of Harpo’s trademarks and create confusion as to the source, sponsorship and/or affiliation of the service and/or goods provided under the OPRAHDEMICS trademark and OPRAHDEMICS O Logo,” court documents read. “Upon information and belief, Defendants Jackson and Rigueur have also acted in bad faith by attempting to capitalize on the goodwill and reputation of Harpo’s trademarks to raise their own personal and professional brands.”

For these reasons, among others, Jackson and Rigueur are being brought to court.

Fortunately, Harpo Inc. is not seeking monetary reparations for Jackson’s and Rigueur’s involvement and attempts to capitalize on Winfrey’s image.

“Harpo does not seek monetary damages or profits available under applicable law from Defendants’ wrongful acts of building a media and entertainment brand by capitalizing on the goodwill of the OPRAH and O family of trademarks. Nor does Harpo seek to prohibit Defendants from airing a podcast series on their chosen topic,” the claim read. “However, Harpo submits that the Court should enjoin Defendants from wrongfully creating a new brand incorporating Harpo’s trademarks and making trademark use which is dilutive of and constitutes misuse of Harpo’s OPRAH and O family of trademarks and explicitly misleads consumers as to the source and/or sponsorship of Defendants’ branded offerings.”

Trademark and Licensing Learning Lesson

Trademarks can become slippery territory if the right actions are not in place for your platform and the integrity of existing brands.

According to Gerben Law, businesses should explore hiring a trademark attorney. This can help ensure there are no oversights or lawsuits in the long haul, thanks to proper drafting agreements and ensuring there is a proper use of the trademark.

You should also keep in mind that it’s important to develop an extensive licensing agreement signed by both the licensor and licensee and create guidelines for prospective licensees.

Once you secure a trademark, you now are the authoritative figurehead over the products and services as the trademark owner. In addition, you should remain vigilant on how the trademark is being put to use.