Author Topic: Trademark, series, titles, and...yeah...lawsuits (Cockygate & ordinary-word TMs)  (Read 74872 times)  

Offline idontknowyet

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They trademarked the word Twilight and not the series name. I guess Saga was already taken  :)

Actually according to  Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS)
They trademarked The Twilight Saga.
The individual word Twilight is trademarked several times including a lighting company and cables. Book names cannot be trademarked is my understanding.

Online Atlantisatheart

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Yep, I can understand a TM of something unique - as in the guys who write sci-fi and create a world name, race, etc, but the word cocky? I've never had it on a book title, but I've used it plenty of times to describe my characters, it's just such a basic word.

There must be plenty of us who've been around that long that have been copied, in style, covers, and titles, I know I have, and good luck to them. Why would anybody be meanspirited enough to pull up the ladder behind them?

Offline guerin

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Actually according to  Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS)
They trademarked The Twilight Saga.
The individual word Twilight is trademarked several times including a lighting company and cables. Book names cannot be trademarked is my understanding.

Twilight is not the book name. Summit Entertainment has a trademark on Twilight and there are several cases involving litigation over this trademark. If you want to test this trademark feel free to write a book with that word in the title. (Especially one in the bitlit genre)
« Last Edit: May 04, 2018, 07:06:33 PM by guerin »

Offline David VanDyke

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I just had an idea. I don't think it qualifies as malicious. I'm thinking it might be an appropriate way to deal with the situation. Or maybe not. I'm torn. The little devil is whispering in my ear--but I am actually serious. Maybe.

Lots of books with lots of that word, or variations thereof, in the title (not the series name), or in the description, or other places where it's completely steel-plated defensible, may make it clear that serving zillions of other authors with legal papers is pointless. That's what I'm thinking. Make it such an ubiquitous term that any legal action becomes meaningless--all while complying with the letter of the law and simultaneously appealing (or whatever the legal term is) by the proper channels.

(comments welcomed)


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Offline idontknowyet

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Twilight is not the book name. Summit Entertainment has a trademark on Twilight and there are several cases involving litigation over this trademark. If you want to test this trademark feel free to write a book with that word in the title. (Especially one in the bitlit genre)

Just a few I found on amazon searching twilight.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Vol. 1 pub 3/14/17

Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China's Last Golden Age pub 5/15/18

Twilight's Spell (Vampire Magic Book 1) pub 2/26/18

Edinburgh Twilight (Ian Hamilton Mysteries Book 1) pub 9/5/17

There are hundreds more. My guess is they attempted to block the use of the word but were unsuccessful.

Offline Becca Mills

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To ask a larger question:

Considering just those books that seem to be intentionally mimicking this author's "Cocky" titles, cover layout, and typography (I noticed a few of these in my search), what do y'all think is the best way to respond to that sort of thing? Should successful authors just ignore it? Try to stamp it out, but with a more limited use of trademarking? Some other response?

Offline Patty Jansen

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To ask a larger question:

Considering just those books that seem to be intentionally mimicking this author's "Cocky" titles, cover layout, and typography (I noticed a few of these in my search), what do y'all think is the best way to respond to that sort of thing? Should successful authors just ignore it? Try to stamp it out, but with a more limited use of trademarking? Some other response?

Consider it a mark of success? Imitation is the ultimate form of flattery and all that?

Offline David VanDyke

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To ask a larger question:

Considering just those books that seem to be intentionally mimicking this author's "Cocky" titles, cover layout, and typography (I noticed a few of these in my search), what do y'all think is the best way to respond to that sort of thing? Should successful authors just ignore it? Try to stamp it out, but with a more limited use of trademarking? Some other response?

The more unique and specific a brand is, the more defensible, both legally and by common sense. Just TMing the word "Cocky" is common-sense ridiculous. If the TM specifies "Cocky Series" and identifies it with a romance series having such and such characteristics and so on, that's much more defensible. Just like Apple is not TM-able, but Apple plus computers plus the logo is.

One big problem is, what in this case can possible be considered a unique expression? You can't TM all pictures of apples, only something like the Apple logo. How to satisfy the unique demands of TM without making it too broad, like the "space marine" fiasco?


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Offline Becca Mills

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Consider it a mark of success? Imitation is the ultimate form of flattery and all that?

That would be my impulse. Then again, I've never experienced this particular type of frustration ... so easy for me to say.  ::)

The more unique and specific a brand is, the more defensible, both legally and by common sense. Just TMing the word "Cocky" is common-sense ridiculous. If the TM specifies "Cocky Series" and identifies it with a romance series having such and such characteristics and so on, that's much more defensible. Just like Apple is not TM-able, but Apple plus computers plus the logo is.

One big problem is, what in this case can possible be considered a unique expression? You can't TM all pictures of apples, only something like the Apple logo. How to satisfy the unique demands of TM without making it too broad, like the "space marine" fiasco?

Right. And this particular situation seems awfully risky as a precedent. I'm imagining one word after another being carved out of usability within popular genres as authors panic and rush to trademark their series titles.

Perhaps if she'd only gone after those books that seem to have copied her cover layouts and fonts, asking them to quit mimicking her branding but not bothering with the word "cocky," so long as it wasn't typographically like hers?

Online Atlantisatheart

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To ask a larger question:

Considering just those books that seem to be intentionally mimicking this author's "Cocky" titles, cover layout, and typography (I noticed a few of these in my search), what do y'all think is the best way to respond to that sort of thing? Should successful authors just ignore it? Try to stamp it out, but with a more limited use of trademarking? Some other response?

I've been around since 2012 and it was going on back then. I've had everything mimicked and by some authors that have gone on to be pretty big indies (generic; you're welcome.) No matter what this author claims, readers aren't stupid enough to be fooled. They picked up the books because they were similar, and if they did make a mistake, well, that's what the refund option is for.

I'd say ignore it or you're only going to create more problems.

Online Rick Gualtieri

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To ask a larger question:

Considering just those books that seem to be intentionally mimicking this author's "Cocky" titles, cover layout, and typography (I noticed a few of these in my search), what do y'all think is the best way to respond to that sort of thing? Should successful authors just ignore it? Try to stamp it out, but with a more limited use of trademarking? Some other response?

On its surface her trademark on the stylistic use of the term sounds legit. Id have no problem with that. Heck, find your own font treatments.

But shes overstepping herself. Rather than make this a small defensive posturing thing, shes turning this into a massive dumpster fire and painting herself as the bad guy.


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Online Atlantisatheart

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On its surface her trademark on the stylistic use of the term sounds legit. Id have no problem with that. Heck, find your own font treatments.

But shes overstepping herself. Rather than make this a small defensive posturing thing, shes turning this into a massive dumpster fire and painting herself as the bad guy.

Her covers aren't unique, PNR were doing that before romance were. The symbol brand, everyone and their dog have been doing that. As for the word cocky - others came before her there as well, so she's ripping everyone else off and then TM-ing for herself. Maybe if she'd come up with something fresh and new she might be able to posture, but not from what I can see.



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« Last Edit: May 04, 2018, 08:15:45 PM by Becca Mills »

Offline Perry Constantine

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I just remembered that a few years ago, a fan sent me a link to a comic book series. It was about a team of superheroes called Vanguard. This was the same name as my superhero novel series. Similarities pretty much ended there and it's not surprising to see why--vanguard is the type of name well-suited to a team of superheroes, after all.

I found the writer/artist on Twitter and sent him a message. We had a good laugh about it and we both shared links of each other's work with our respective fans.

Online jb1111

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Reading through this thread, looking at a couple of the books in question, and looking over the TM documents, it all looks like yet another way to fight off the competition I suppose.



Online C. Gold

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Reading through this thread, looking at a couple of the books in question, and looking over the TM documents, it all looks like yet another way to fight off the competition I suppose.
Nah. The better way to do it would have been to trademark the style she uses on her covers. It's very distinguished, used on all her covers, and worth trademarking to keep copycats from confusing her branding. I'd pay to keep that look unique, too. She got really bad advice if she was told to trademark just the word -- a common word used in romance. That is only going to anger every romance writer who finds out about this whether they use 'cocky' in their series names or not. It's already begun.  :( Plus everyone else will want the TM to fail because otherwise it will open an entire can of worms as everyone rushes to TM commonly used words and causes no end of mess.


Offline Usedtoposthere

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Nah. The better way to do it would have been to trademark the style she uses on her covers. It's very distinguished, used on all her covers, and worth trademarking to keep copycats from confusing her branding. I'd pay to keep that look unique, too. She got really bad advice if she was told to trademark just the word -- a common word used in romance. That is only going to anger every romance writer who finds out about this whether they use 'cocky' in their series names or not. It's already begun.  :( Plus everyone else will want the TM to fail because otherwise it will open an entire can of worms as everyone rushes to TM commonly used words and causes no end of mess.


Except that Courtney Milan published a book first with that same author font and distinctive cover style, so ... hmm. 

It's a small community, especially in romance. I wouldn't want to p*ss so many fellow authors off like that--and their readers. An awful lot of awfully big names are speaking out. Not a pretty picture. I think she'll regret this one. I hope it goes down in flames, as above--this would be a terrible precedent.

Offline Mark Dawson

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If this was a case of an author protecting the look and feel of a series - because, say, other authors were effectively passing off their books as hers - I would be fine with it. That's defending your business and branding, and a sensible idea. If, on the other hand, it is a case of trying to prevent other authors using the word "cocky" in a title, then that's something else entirely. If I wrote "The Cocky Billionaire" and was asked to change the title to something else I would be lawyering up at once. I'm not sure exactly what the situation is and there's a lot of noise at the moment, but it does look as if it is the latter situation - and that's very problematic.

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Can trademarking really force people to change something retroactively?? That seems grossly unfair.

IANAL, so maybe there's something I'm not getting, but if "space marine" couldn't be successfully defended as a trademark, due to preexisting wide use, how can a word as common as "cocky" be?


I'd think that would be extremely complex in pre-existing uses. If your book is copyrighted under that name, officially, and that title is the ISBN metadata, I'm not so sure how easy it is to change things. I've never done it. Plus, an author will have to rehire their cover designer to make the change of a new titles, and if they use Ingram, PAY for a new upload charge?
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Offline cadle-sparks

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Carol Ritter (carol.ritter@rwa.org)

wants to hear from anyone threatened with legal action from this. Romance Writers of America is great.

Offline guerin

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To ask a larger question:

Considering just those books that seem to be intentionally mimicking this author's "Cocky" titles, cover layout, and typography (I noticed a few of these in my search), what do y'all think is the best way to respond to that sort of thing? Should successful authors just ignore it? Try to stamp it out, but with a more limited use of trademarking? Some other response?

Well, that was the author's original problem, wasn't it?

I'm sure she noticed that there was an issue with others mimicking her work and she most probably went to a lawyer. The lawyer informed her that her copyright wouldn't protect her but a trademark could. Trademarking is a bit more complicated than registering your copyright for $35 on a government website. I wouldn't be surprised at all that it was the lawyer who decided that TM should be registered for that word, and not her.

I know everyone will think I'm defending her, but I'm trying to give her the benefit of the doubt. I haven't seen a single actual complaint from an author who has received a letter from her. I've searched the web and social media. I can't find any author's first-person account telling us how they received such a letter. I find that a little strange?

What if the ones complaining about this, and the ones that received a notice from the author, were those mimicking her work? That might explain why they are not going public with their claims. It would also justify her actions to me. If that's the case, then they must all be having a good laugh now seeing this author getting dragged down.

It is also possible that she has simply gone too far with this, especially if she's actually sending out notices to every author using that name in their title.

I don't know the whole story, and I don't think any of us that have posted on this subject do either. It just seems to me that we are only considering the second possibility and not the first?

Offline ........

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Why is it the author's name is deleted wiped hidden gone from this thread?

It's public knowledge now. The trademark can be looked up. The author has made a public comment.

Can we just cut to the core of it and openly discuss the trademark and the author?

Online Lydniz

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I know everyone will think I'm defending her, but I'm trying to give her the benefit of the doubt. I haven't seen a single actual complaint from an author who has received a letter from her. I've searched the web and social media. I can't find any author's first-person account telling us how they received such a letter. I find that a little strange?


They do exist, but the fact is that a lot of people want a peaceful life and prefer to keep their heads below the parapet, so they won't necessarily go around shouting about it.

Offline Jena H

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To ask a larger question:

Considering just those books that seem to be intentionally mimicking this author's "Cocky" titles, cover layout, and typography (I noticed a few of these in my search), what do y'all think is the best way to respond to that sort of thing? Should successful authors just ignore it? Try to stamp it out, but with a more limited use of trademarking? Some other response?

As has been mentioned, the "imitating" of another book's cover look isn't new, and has been done to much bigger, more popular books than these.  If anything, having copycats should only increase the popularity of her own books.  After all, she could always make her author name a big bigger or bolder or find some way to make her covers even more distinctive.

IMO this move is either majorly-aggressive overreach on the author's part, an innocent (hah) act of frustration that has gone unsurprisingly awry, or a really strange publicity stunt.
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Offline she-la-ti-da

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Perhaps if she'd only gone after those books that seem to have copied her cover layouts and fonts, asking them to quit mimicking her branding but not bothering with the word "cocky," so long as it wasn't typographically like hers?

I'm thinking that going after someone for copyright infringement is a one at a time deal, while with trademark protection she can hit a group at once and force most people to simply comply since court cases are so expensive. Cease and desist letters are relatively cheap, I imagine. And if she can get Amazon to take the books down, that alone would likely cause some authors to simply cave in so they can get their books back up.

I can see trademarking a specific string of words, such as the exact series title. Or a certain kind of title, the way J K Rowling did, I believe, with the "Harry Potter and the" example. But a single word, that's been commonly used in a genre for decades? No. For example, I could have a series called "The Whispering Woods Mysteries". That I could legitimately trademark. But just "whispering"? Or "woods"? No, no, no.

There's going to be blow back over this. It's not going to be pretty, and I think this author is going to regret her actions in the end.
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Offline Anarchist

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To ask a larger question:

Considering just those books that seem to be intentionally mimicking this author's "Cocky" titles, cover layout, and typography (I noticed a few of these in my search), what do y'all think is the best way to respond to that sort of thing? Should successful authors just ignore it? Try to stamp it out, but with a more limited use of trademarking? Some other response?

Speaking only for myself, I'd ignore it.

But I'm against IP laws in general.



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