Oprah sends "Heaven on Earth" jacket to hell

Trademark misuse forces publisher to recall a new book.

By Craig Offman

Published May 6, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

1998 was a watershed year for 21-year-old philanthropic dynamo Danny Seo, the founder of Earth 2000. Swing magazine, citing his tireless environmental and animal-rights activism, picked him as one of the nation's most powerful people in their 20s. People magazine named him one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world. And if you've had a chance to see the cover of his new book, "Heaven on Earth: 15-Minute Miracles to Change the World," you may have noticed that it won a "1998 Oprah's Angel Network Award."

If you're wondering what the Oprah's Angel Network Award is, the people at Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions are wondering, too. "There is no such thing as an Oprah's Angel Network Award," Harpo Productions spokeswoman Audrey Pass told Salon Books. "Oprah's Angel Award is a trademark of Harpo Incorporated, and we go to great lengths to make sure our trademarks are not used as an endorsement without our permission."

As a result of the questionable use, Harpo Productions has asked Pocket Books, a Simon & Schuster imprint, to recall the title (which shipped last week) and redo the jackets. The publishing house has obliged and will reissue the book next month. "It was done very amicably," Simon & Schuster's director of corporate communications, Adam Rothberg, said. The content will not need any amendment.

The red flag went up when Pocket representatives approached Oprah about putting Seo on the show for a second time. (Seo, like Oprah, admires the charitable organization Habitat for Humanity, for which a portion of the profits of "Heaven on Earth" has been earmarked.) During the negotiations, Oprah's people noticed the mention of the Angel Network Award and contacted the publisher.

While the angel may have been banished from the cover of the book, Amazon.com's synopsis gives some reassurance that celestial forces will remain on the inside: "At the heart of Seo's approach are his 10 Rules of Angel Power." Be that as it may, anyone dealing with Oprah should remember the commandment about taking names in vain.

Craig Offman

Craig Offman is the New York correspondent for Salon Books.

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