Last week, a furor erupted in the writing community after a romance author had her trademark for the single word “cocky” approved. While trademarking book series titles is common to maintain the integrity of a series, the trademark of a single word is not usually allowed — especially for one that is in common usage and not a made-up word.
Once the United States Patent and Trademark Office approved the cocky trademark, the author involved went ahead and issued cease and desist notices to all authors who had used the term “cocky” in their romance series. Many authors, once receiving these notices, and fearful of expensive legal proceedings, had to set about changing their titles, cover artwork, and all promotional items in relation to the titles. As can be imagined, this can be a lengthy and expensive process.
While the trademark of the word “cocky” was only for use in the title of romance book series and could be used in single title books and those in other genres, many felt a dangerous precedent was being set. After all, what would happen if authors started successfully trademarking words like vampires, romance, or magic? In fact, if trademarking single-use words in book titles became common, it could be argued that authors could make more money off licensing words for use by others in titles rather than by actually writing books.
After it became public, the writing community banded together against the trademark. Some authors and graphic designers helped those authors affected to change their titles, and, by effect, their cover artwork, free of charge. Another author, Kevin Kneupper, who is also a retired legal professional, came out of retirement and took it upon himself to have the cocky trademark overturned.
Since the trademark became official, Kneupper has worked tirelessly in an effort to have the trademark canceled. Yesterday, via his Twitter account, he announced that after submitting the paperwork to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a Notice of Institution had been issued. This means that, eventually, this trademark will go before the courts and be examined for its validity.
Have received Notice of Institution in the "cocky" trademark challenge. Dates go out to end of 2019 – but Lauren Emerson and Cameron Reuber of @LeasonEllis, soon to be world's foremost romance novel legal specialists, working hard! Hope to end as soon as we can! pic.twitter.com/XkPf0KSuVF
— Kevin Kneupper (@kneupperwriter) May 15, 2018
“The cancelation proceedings have been ‘instituted,’ the parties are on notice of that fact, and now the TTAB will go through the process to determine whether the trademark is valid,” Kneupper explained further via Twitter.
While this is exciting news for authors who are concerned about the trademark war over the word cocky bleeding out into other genres, the process will still be a lengthy one. It is expected that this trademark battle will continue on into 2019.