Aha! Mutual of Omaha and Winfrey Settle Lawsuit

November 11, 2009

Mutual of Omaha may have had its own “aha moment.” The Omaha, Neb.-based insurance company has decided to settle its lawsuit against Oprah Winfrey’s production company over rights to the phrase.

Jim Nolan, a spokesman for Mutual, and Angela DePaul, a spokeswoman for Winfrey’s Chicago-based Harpo Productions Inc., would only say that the case was resolved amicably. Documents filed last month in U.S. District Court in Omaha do not outline details of the settlement.

Mutual and Harpo began sparring earlier this year after Mutual starting using the slogan “official sponsor of the aha moment” in a national advertising campaign.

Harpo asked Mutual in a letter to stop using “aha moment” to promote its insurance and financial products because it didn’t want confusion about whether there was a relationship between Mutual and Winfrey. Winfrey’s representatives argued in April that the phrase was synonymous with Winfrey and her show.

Mutual responded with the lawsuit and documents showing it had obtained preliminary approval of a federal trademark.

The insurance company said it conceived its slogan in February 2008 and unveiled the Web site www.ahamoment.com a year later. It began researching trademark rights to “aha moment” in July 2008 and filed an application with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office that August. Mutual said no opposition was made to its trademark application, and preliminary approval was granted in April.

Mutual originally asked the court for a legal declaration allowing it to use the slogan and pronouncing that Mutual has not infringed on Harpo’s or Winfrey’s rights. Harpo never filed a formal response to Mutual’s lawsuit.

Mutual asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed last month, and the judge entered his ruling Oct. 22.

As part of its ad campaign, Mutual sent a crew on a 25-city tour to collect video stories of people describing a turning point in their lives when they realized something important. Visitors to Mutual’s Web site helped the insurance company pick ten of the “aha” stories to appear in television commercials starting next year.

Mutual of Omaha: www.mutualofomaha.com

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