29 May 2018

PG has stumbled across occasional tweets by indie authors mentioning trademarks for their titles.

Is he wrong in assuming the massive backlash against an author who tried this a couple of weeks ago has not demonstrated that this is not a good idea?


Copyright/Intellectual Property

16 Comments to “Trademarks?”

  1. Patricia Sierra

    PG, you’re never wrong.

  2. I’ve seen a few of these authors stating they’re not like Faleena and wouldn’t do anything she did, and they’re doing this for their own protection.

    As an aside, 50% of the population is below median intelligence.

  3. I don’t think most people would get upset if you invented alien races called, say, the “Kagaberja” or the “Bepaneenafol” and trademarked those names.

    It’s trying to trademark common words or concepts, like “cocky” or “space marine” that seems to make people angry.

    Personally, it wouldn’t bother me if Patrick O’Brian had trademarked the phrase “Aubrey/Maturin series” or something of that nature, but if someone tried to trademark “Sea Stories” it would bother me.

    • One of the inherent shortcomings for word trademarks is the importance of avoiding the use of language that is descriptive.

      If you could get it, Clean Clothes wouldn’t be a very good trademark for laundry detergent while names like Tide and Dash aren’t descriptive of what the benefits or functions of the product are.

      Coined trademarks tend to be the strongest – Xerox for copiers, Exxon for petroleum products, Kodack for cameras and film are often used as examples.

      • That is, until those names become genericized like Kleenex, correct?

        Which leads to the question of why Droid (and not android) is protected as it’s such a genericized term for a robot? I haven’ looked into it lately, but I’m assuming that if I wrote a book called A Cocky Droid Romance, or even use the word droid in my book, that Disney would be sending me letters?

        • You’re correct, Dexter.

          The lawyers for owners of important and valuable trademarks generally have a system that attempts to discover any improper use of those trademarks.

          Typically a letter will be sent to anyone improperly using a trademark that includes instructions on how to properly reference a trademark. A copy of the letter goes into a file for future reference in the event that someone claims the trademark is weakened or forfeited because of unpoliced improper use.

          On occasion, the trademark owner may ask for other actions by the infringer, retractions, corrections, etc.

    • Or ‘rebellion’–

      I wish the USPTO would just refuse to TM a word that is not a neologism or in a very, very, very narrow niche/scope/use (a phrase for a series in a particular limited arena). But really, how annoying these word-grabbers are

      Wanna trademark it? Invent it,dammit. Make up a cool name.

  4. Felix J. Torres

    If an author is looking to build a strong brand for a series or cycle it would make some sense to trademark their brand. In today’s multimedia world brands have extra value in related fields that might lead to confusion or a title getting stomped by a bigger player out there. Self-defense makes sense.

    Again, as stated, some common sense is needed.

    I don’t think a trademark on something very specific would be resented. Say something along the lines of “The Donor Family Chronicles” or “The Empire of Hazbinbad the Conqueror” rather than something generic like “The Regency Saga”.

    If nothing else, an online search online and on Amazon should be a first step.

  5. I registered Edgewhen®. If someone else started marketing their novels as Edgewhen novels, I think it would be very reasonable to point out that they are creating product confusion and ask them to stop using my trademark.

    I did not register “fantasy adventure stories”. That would be silly. And it would be unenforceable.

    I could register “Fantasy adventure stories of heroism and friendship.” I’m using it to distinguish my products, and it’s distinctive enough to be a trademark. But I couldn’t use that registration to prevent others from advertising that their books are also about heroes and friends. I couldn’t use that to prevent someone from using “fantasy adventure stories” as a subtitle to an anthology.

    My novels are set on a flat world which could be construed to be a disc. But that doesn’t mean I can advertise them as Discworld novels. That would be a blatant attempt to create product confusion.

    I don’t write about cocky cowboys. However, if I were to do so, I don’t think I would create product confusion by describing them that way.

  6. Several new ones have appeared: Forever; Shifter Series; etc.

    Speculation on one of my groups is that some guru has started pushing this as a marketing ploy and this is the result

    • The same guru telling them to buy fb ads and to collect email addresses to spam the heck out of – the problems with those and other marketing tricks is that all the hammering from marketing groups have taught us to ignore/avoid it when we see it coming.

      Nothing turns people off/away like the high pressure used car salesperson. Set it out there, make it look/sound interesting and then get out of the way and let it sell itself. When they come to ‘you’ half the battle’s already won.

  7. I would suspect the authors now trying to trademark their titles aren’t looking at the backlash so much as they’re looking at the fact that she actually got the trademark in the first place. While obviously some of them are overreaching, it’s possible that some are trademarking now when they otherwise wouldn’t just because they’re scared that someone else will get the trademark first–trying to protect themselves from being the victim of what that author has been doing to other ‘cocky’ authors.

  8. If you’ve only seen a FEW tweets, you haven’t been paying attention.

  9. It’s not a bad idea if properly implemented. It’s simply fraught with pitfalls. Nobody thinks trademarking the Harry Potter series, Tolkein’s Middle Earth, or 50 Shades is a bad idea. But those trademarks are narrow and specific, not abusive.

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