Where is the line between a flattering appreciation and a brand-damaging infringement? According to Oprah Winfrey, two of her acolytes are on the wrong side.
Winfrey’s production company, Harpo Inc., has filed suit against Kellie Carter Jackson and Leah Wright Rigueur, the co-creators and co-hosts of the podcast “Oprahdemics.” “Oprah obsessives” according to Deadline. Jackson and Rigueur are authors and historians whose specialties lie in race and politics; they are not lawyers, and apparently did not consult any before establishing this venture together: the basis of Harpo’s lawsuit is copyright infringement over the use of Winfrey’s first name in the podcast title, as well as website art that plays on the iconic “O” fans know from O, The Oprah Magazine, and from thousands of book covers chosen for Oprah’s Book Club. The suit cites Rigueur and Jackson’s promotion of live “Oprahdemics” events at the Tribeca Film Festival, and on Instagram Live last month, as potentially confusing to Winfrey’s fans, who may assume Winfrey has endorsed Jackson and Rigueur’s work.
Fortunately for Rigueur and Jackson—since Winfrey is a billionaire who could potentially fight this for the rest of her life, whereas these two academics she’s named in the suit presumably are and could not—Harpo is not seeking damages. Instead, Harpo is merely asking that the podcast operate under a different title lest they further “dilute” Winfrey’s brand.
Perhaps Jackson and Rigueur can reach out to listeners for alternate name suggestions? Free tip, which Kristen Bell would probably co-sign: don’t pivot to “Shattered Glass.”