Does Oprah Own "Aha Moments"?

The catch phrase, made famous by Oprah Winfrey to signify a sudden shot of clarity, was one of 100 new words or phrases added to the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary for its annual update recently.

The phrase was among words like F-bomb and earworms (songs you can’t get out of your head).

Others include craft beer, e-reader, game changer, a new definition for “gassed” as slang for drained of energy, gastropub, geocaching, shovel-ready (a construction site ready for work) and tipping point.

In all, the company picks about 100 additions for the 114-year-old dictionary’s annual update, gathering evidence of usage over several years in everything from media to the labels of beer bottles and frozen food.

However it is the Aha Moment phrase that is getting much attention from the media as it is credited to the Queen of media, Ms Oprah Winfrey. 

The term is so closely associated with Oprah that in 2009, she and Mutual of Omaha got involved in a legal imbroglio over Mutual of Omaha’s use of the phrase, with Oprah claiming that aha moment was her catchphrase and she had the rights to it.

Yeah seriously, Oprah wanted to be the only person who can use the phrase for commercial gain. 

I am all for trademarking creative work but it bothers me when suddenly just because someone is famous and uses a phrase or word then suddenly it seems like they created the term. 

Oprah did not originate the phrase. In  fact, the first reference of “aha moment” found by Merriam-Webster researchers dates to 1939 in a book of psychology. 

Its use was sporadic until the ’90s, then Winfrey began using it on her daytime talk show.

Though Beyonce has not claimed legally that she owns "Bootyliscious", she does claims credit for the usage of the term to describe vuluptuos women. So does this mean nobody was using the word before she decided to write a song about it?

I guess Zola should have trademarked Ghetto-Fabulous then.

No-one has used the word "Ayoba" in business but for some reason I have a feeling that MTN would have a problem with that even though the term was in existence long before they used it for the ads.

According to Forbes, these are some of the phrases that are trademarked by celebrities so be careful not to use them in your business or you may get sued;
  • “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!” -Michael Buffer
It may be one of the most infamous trademarked phrases in sports history and one that has been copyrighted since 1992 by ring announcer Michael Buffer. Usually announced right before a boxing match, Buffer’s turn of phrase has also translated into a healthy entrepreneurial side career gig, even being featured in a campaign for Kraft’s cheese crumbles as what else? “Let’s get ready to crumble!”
  • “That’s Hot” -Paris Hilton
It was an inescapable phrase in 2007 thanks to TV series The Simple Life and for Paris especially who registered the trademark in February 2007, it became one that pitted Hilton against Hallmark Cards the same year in a lawsuit for using the trademarked phrase on a greeting card. Hallmark defended the parody on the cards under fair-use law. In September 2010, Hallmark and Hilton met a settlement on the card dispute or as Reuters called it ”a mutually beneficial resolution.” Definitely more cool than hot.
  • “You’re Fired” -Donald Trump
Used by the Donald on his hit TV series The Apprentice, “You’re Fired” was the ultimate dismissal in the reality show world for those competing for a high-powered job position within the Trump empire. In March 2004, Donald Trump filed a trademark application for the phrase with the intent on using the phrase for various Trump undertakings including clothing and casinos. The application was rejected but the phrase and its many spoofs are just as alive and well today as his infamous comb-over.
  • “Bananas” -Rachel Zoe
After spelling it out several times in her song “Hollaback Girl” Gwen Stefani should have trademarked this word when she had the chance. In 2009, fashion stylist Rachel Zoe successfully trademarked not one but two of her catch phrases frequently used on her reality series The Rachel Zoe Project: “I Die” and “Bananas.” The former is used to express when something is truly incredible while the latter describes things that are more on the crazy side. Kind of like how T-shirt designer Christopher Sauvé attempted to fight Zoe on her trademark with his “Free the Fruit” campaign with the statement, “Fruits have been expressing themselves for ages in the fashion world for far too long to be trademarked.” Somewhere out there, the Chiquita Banana girl is expressing her gratitude.
Ok call me what you will but I think this is utterly ridiculous. Imagine someone all of the sudden trademarking "shut up" and all of the sudden the general public is prohibited to use the term freely. These celebrities are insane.

As if they are not making enough money already, do they now want to own words we use to communicate? That to me reeks of narcissism and greed.

Imagine if all of the sudden Nonhle Thema owns the term "BOOM" and "SIT DOWN". Yes she made the terms popular but can she claim ownership over their existence?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Phil; I was hoping that someone would notice.

I guess that the scholarly works of Auble, Franks & Soraci (Effort toward comprehension: Elaboration or "aha!"?, Memory & Cognition, 1979), Bowden (The effect of reportable and unreportable hints on anagram solution and the Aha! experience, Consciousness & Cognition, 1997) and Bowden & Jung-Beeman (Aha! Insight experience correlates with solution activation in the right hemisphere, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 2003) pale before Oprah Winfrey's "Aha Moment"??

No, I can't say that ... even in jest.

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