to German fetish title
Wins lawsuit over right to O magazine name
By Jeff Bercovici
Sometimes it's the Goliaths who whip the Davids.
Oprah Winfrey and Hearst Magazines have won their trademark fight against the publisher of an erotic magazine with nearly the same name.
In a 34-page decision, U.S. District Court Judge John Koeltl has ruled that O: The Oprah Magazine does not infringe on the copyright of a German magazine known simply as O, which consists mainly of women photographed in a variety of fetish outfits and fantasy settings.
The two magazines differ so substantially as to eliminate any possibility of consumer confusion, ruled Koeltl. Other factors cited in his decision included the irregular publication schedule of O magazine and the long delay between the Hearst title’s launch and the filing of the lawsuit last August.
The unsuccessful plaintiff in the case is Ronald Brockmeyer, a 43-year-old former business consultant who bought the O trademark in 1995 after the magazine’s original publisher, Techcom GmbH, entered bankruptcy.
"When I became publisher of O, I set myself the goal of developing an erotic art magazine which would describe, in an attractive way, the world of art, fashion and fantasy, for both sexes, in good paper quality, in excellent getup and at a reasonable price," writes Brockmeyer on the magazine’s web site.
The magazine’s old tagline, "The Art of Fetish, Fashion & Fantasy," has been updated to "The Art, the Fashion, the Fantasy."
Another site, www.defenders-of-o.com, appears to have been created by Brockmeyer to generate support for his legal wrangle against Hearst.
"The legal theory of this case is very simple: a large media giant is trying to take away the future value of one individual’s trademark," reads the site’s text. "Hearst is using its money and media power to use someone else’s trademark just because they want it for themselves."
A biographical sketch of Brockmeyer on the site says he fought an earlier courtroom battle against the former owner of O. He eventually won and was awarded damages of $420,000, but the proceedings caused him to fall behind in publishing the magazine.
"This resulted in a personal and financial crisis for Brockmeyer, which was finally solved when his parents decided to help him out and made him the General Manager of a Germany company owned by his mother, Mrs. Edeltraud Brockmeyer, a retired accountant," reads the bio.
O: The Oprah Magazine launch in April of 2000. In the second half of last year it had a paid circulation of more than 2.5 million, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Year-to-date through June its ad pages have been flat at 640.34, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.
July 15, 2002© 2002 Media Life
-Jeff Bercovici is a staff writer for Media Life.