It seems ever since #cockygate flooded the author community there have been more and more unknown authors rushing to trademark commonly used words to secure their “safety nets” for their work. Often, these authors claim to have a reader’s best interests at heart but to many, it boils down deeper than that. Recently, an author had attempted to trademark a figure holding a gun on a book cover. Notice my surprise as I didn’t even know that a book cover itself could be trademarked. I know logos can be trademarked, but book covers, which depicts artistic creations? That I’m unsure of and will need to look further into it.
Back to point on trademarking. It has been stated repeatedly that an author is their own brand and therefore trademarks are not needed. I agree. It is not to say you cannot trademark a title, but the title itself must be unique and connected to the author’s brand. This is to say if I wanted to trademark my novel series: The Warriors series, I’d have to think long and hard about that before deciding it was in my best interest to NOT to. Why not? There are movies and books already with that title called The Warriors and each of them is a common word. How does one tell the difference between them? Author’s name. Simple as that.
Now if I wanted to trademark something called The Last Aleantylar series, I could probably do that. Aleantylar is my own word, something I made up long ago by combining some words together. It is a species/race of elf and it is in my Warriors series. However, since it is, there is no need to trademark it. It’s already protected by copyright.
When an author trademarks a common word for their title and then makes a desperate attempt to stop other authors from using it in their own titles, it is done to intentionally wipe out the competition. This makes it possible so the trademark title of the author in question is the only one to show up in the search results when searching by that particular title.
I can understand wanting your book to be noticed. I can understand wanting to become a best-selling author. But to me and to many others, trademarking words to boost your title while pushing other titles out of the way is a shitty thing to do. Authoring is not a competition and it should never be made into one. When it comes to writing a book and marketing it, we are all in this together. Authors support one another through a variety of ways. For one thing, authors are also readers. Trademarking common words to boost your book and your name will only alienate potential readers and place you on the “do not read, do not buy” list. This means genuine sales will plummet and you will lose potential readers.
Who wants to see their books and name put at the top of that “do not read, do not buy” list? No one. However, these days trademarking words is becoming more and more common and there appears to be no end in sight. It is unfathomable that any author would dare to trademark their title. They may say that JK Rowling trademark Harry Potter. I believe the difference is that Harry Potter is a brand unto itself because of movie rights and merchandise. As previously mentioned in another blog, JK Rowling isn’t suing anyone from writing the name Harry Potter. In fact, there are actual people named Harry Potter.
Honestly, there is no need to trademark a common word. Your book will get noticed through hard work and determination and through friending other authors. Build your relationship with fellow authors and readers. Establish your brand through honesty. Get involved in writing groups or start up a creative blog. There are a multitude of things a person can do that does not involve trademarking. Don’t isolate yourself by putting yourself on the “do not read, do not buy” list.