Aha! Oprah Winfrey, Mutual of Omaha end dispute over phrase

Is anyone other than Oprah Winfrey allowed to have an "aha! moment"? Apparently so -- but it's best to get her blessing first.

Mutual of Omaha has withdrawn a lawsuit aimed at establishing its right to use that phrase in an advertising campaign after reaching a settlement with Harpo Productions, Winfrey's media company. Terms of the settlement were not made public, and neither company is saying much, but as of now, a website promoting the campaign is still online, complete with the disputed tagline "Mutual of Omaha: Proud sponsor of life's aha moments." The site features videos of real people talking about the epiphanies that changed their lives for the better.
After Mutual of Omaha first rolled out the campaign earlier this year, Harpo objected, saying the phrase was firmly associated in the public mind with Winfrey, who frequently uses it on her show. Never mind that the Nexis news database turns up thousands of articles containing the term "aha moment" with no reference to either Winfrey or Mutual of Omaha that date back more than 20 years. Rather than ditch the campaign, the insurance company responded by petitioning a judge to affirm its right to use the phrase, and revealed that it had already received preliminary approval on an application for the trademark.

The cease-fire comes just as the future of The Oprah Winfrey Show is suddenly in question following a report that Winfrey plans to end the syndication deal under which it currently airs in 2011 and relocate it to cable, where the Oprah Winfrey Network is moving towards a long-delayed launch. CBS chairman Leslie Moonves said Monday that CBS Television Distribution is still in talks with Harpo and hopes to extend the show's run on broadcast TV.

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