When news broke that an Indie author, Faleena Hopkins, was trademarking the single word, “cocky,” the book world was shocked. After all, it is usually general practice that single-use words that are common descriptives are not able to be trademarked. Instead, words need to be a combination, thus making them more original and brand specific. Her additional trademark for the series, “The Cocker Brothers of Atlanta” fulfilled this requirement and was not deemed an issue by outraged authors. Alternatively, entirely made up words (ie. Pepsi) are able to be trademarked, none of which were included in Faleena’s claim.
As a result of the trademark, the Indie community banded together in an effort to have it overturned. Included in this effort was the Romance Writers of America, who made the decision to support the legal battle of authors who had received cease and desist letters from Faleena Hopkins. The original battle was documented via this previous Inquisitr article.
Now, as reported by the Daily Mail, Faleena Hopkins has decided to drop the trademark battle, meaning her series will no longer contain trademarked words and no further actions will be taken against those involved. As a result of this, authors will now be able to use the word “cocky,” if they wish, in romance titles. The trademark case is reported to have been settled in a New York court on Friday, with the judge stating that “she had no right to stop others from using the word in their titles.”
“I set out to protect my brand with getting a trademark and I unwittingly set off a war that I still don’t understand,” Hopkins revealed to the Daily Mail.
However, authors have noticed a slew of inconsistencies and inaccuracies within the original Daily Mail article. Further prompting them to ask the news outlet to research further into the topic. One journalist even went so far as to suggest that Faleena wrote the article herself after commenting on the original article.
“I’m a journalist,” Jim Thorpe said. “Journalists check facts.”
He then elaborated further.
“Clearly, that’s not the case with this article. Not even close. I’d have to guess Faleena wrote this herself. Next time do your homework, Ms. Smith.”
So, what are the truths and fallacies within this trademark case that has since been dubbed “cockygate”?
In Faleena Hopkins’ interview with the Daily Mail, she stated that she is “just trying to protect [her] brand.”
Faleena’s trademark was for the singular word, “cocky,” in relation to use in romance series titles in a specific font that distinguishes her series, the newly named, Cocky Series. This is actually a fair trademark claim. She has a series that uses a specific font in the title that relates directly to her series. However, there were other aspects of the claim that soon came to light that was less fair in use.
For example, according to her original trademark claim, she had also managed to get the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to trademark the work cocky without any identifying font. This meant she could now send out cease and desist letters to anyone using the word “cocky” within their titles. Which she did.
In addition, it was also discovered that the font she had trademarked was not licensed for use in the trademark. However, by the font’s creator’s very own admission, they were unable to afford to pursue the trademark issue and were not going to pursue the matter. However, on May 26, Set Sail Studios issued the following statement on the matter via their Twitter account.
I've sent a cease & desist letter to FH regarding the TM of the stylised form of the word. We'll see how it goes.
— Set Sail Studios (@SetSailStudios) May 26, 2018
It should be noted here that since her original trademark claim, it appears the use of a stylized version of the word cocky has been dropped from the original claim and her trademark now stands at just the singular use of the word. According to the USPTO‘s official gazette announcement, this is directly in contrast to what the author is publicly claiming in relation to her trademark, which is the use of the word in a stylized font.
It should also be noted that, although Hopkins has claimed she will step down from her trademark claim, the registration in the USPTO is still pending cancelation.
“Cancellation/Invalidation Pending. This trademark application has been registered with the Office, but it is currently undergoing a challenge which may result in its removal from the registry. Status: A cancellation proceeding is pending at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. For further information, see TTABVUE on the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board web page.”
So, until that has changed, the potential is still there for Hopkins to further pursue her claim.
When Faleena Hopkins’ cease and desist letters didn’t work, and a legal representative came out of retirement in order to file a cancelation for her trademark, she was then faced with the prospect of going to court in relation to it. The original court hearing commenced on June 1, as previously reported in this Inquisitr article. In that instance, Hopkins was hoping to have the cancelation notice issued by Kevin Kneupper in relation to the trademark overturned, as well as starting proceedings against fellow cocky author, Tara Crescent, and publicist, Jennifer Watson. That case resulted in Kevin Kneupper being dropped from the case and a further hearing date being set in relation to the trademark issue.
Hopkins first self-published her series, The Cocker Brothers of Atlanta, in July of 2016 with the first book being titled, Cocky Roomie, and quickly started publishing “a book a month” as her series started to take off. Each book contained the word “cocky” in the title. Over the next year, however, she claims that she started noticing a rise in copycat titles, especially those using similar stylized fonts, and as a result of this, she “trademarked the word and font.”
It has been stated that Tara Crescent has settled within the court hearing and has “agreed to change the cover of her book, Her Cocky Firefighters, to make it look less like her rival’s.” As yet, Crescent has not yet made a public statement on this matter and her book still remains with the original cover on Amazon.
However, it needs to be noted here that Crescent’s series was called “The Cocky Series” before Faleena applied for her trademark in September of 2017, as Crescent’s first book came out in August, 2017, and the second one came out in November, 2017. Hopkins’ series was originally called “The Cocker Brothers of Atlanta.” However, once her trademark was approved in April, 2018, she changed her series title to “The Cocky Series.” Many of her book titles still retain the original series title on sites such as GoodReads, a site which is owned and run by Amazon.
It is also unclear why Crescent was only ordered to change one book in her series when the other one, My Cocky Doctor, also contains a similar stylization. However, as per the Daily Mail article, it is expected that Crescent will change her font to “make it all blocks instead of including cursive writing.”
One of Faleena’s claims in the original lawsuit was that some of her fans were inadvertently buying other author’s books that had the similar stylized font and contained the word “cocky.” In the original court hearing on June 1, the presiding judge deemed that readers were “sophisticated purchasers” and, according to the Guardian, would “unlikely to be confused between different authors’ books,” thus rendering that argument invalid. However, Hopkins is now claiming that this confusion arose after the initial flare-up of “cockygate” and not as one of the catalysts to her filing the initial trademark.
It is also claimed that Kevin Kneupper is a romance and erotica author who filed to have Faleena’s trademark case canceled. A quick search of Kneupper’s social media shows that he is neither a writer of romance or erotica, but, in fact, science fiction. However, there might be some truth to this statement.
While Kevin is not a romance or erotica author, in order to begin proceedings in relation to the trademark dispute, he had to be somewhat involved in the situation in order to claim a direct dispute. Therefore, in the initial legal petition, Kneupper was listed as “an author of e-books in the field of romance.” The complete extract is below.
“KEVIN KNEUPPER (“Petitioner”), an individual residing at [redacted], email [redacted], an author of e-books in the field of romance and books in the field of romance, and believes he will be damaged by the continued registration of the Mark and hereby petitions to cancel the Registration. As a competing author in the same field who has described characters in his books They Who Fell and Argonauts as ‘cocky’ and who may use this word in marketing materials, Amazon keywords, book descriptions, metadata describing his books, keywords targeted for paid advertisements, and future titles, Petitioner has a direct and personal stake in the outcome of the proceeding. The continued presence of the Registration on the federal trademark register constitutes an obstacle to Petitioner’s intended use of the term ‘cocky’ in future works and in marketing materials, covers, metadata, advertisements, or keywords. The Registration, thus, is causing injury and damage to Petitioner, and Petitioner has standing to challenge it.”
It is also later stated in the legal documents that “because of the fears of litigation under this invalid Mark expressed throughout the community of authors, and in particular romance authors, and because of his own standing to challenge this Mark and the potential damage its continued registration threatens to his business as a self-published author, Petitioner has filed this Petition for Cancellation.”
Kevin Kneupper also issued the following statement about his incorrect genre branding via his Twitter account.
I've never written any erotica but that's OK – worse things could be said about me! I do hope there is a final settlement soon, after which I plan to let things lie. Many other trademarks to worry about, and that's ultimately the issue.https://t.co/nTKKVXNsoZ
— Kevin Kneupper (@kneupperwriter) June 30, 2018
If Kneupper had not made this claim, someone else would have had to step forward and apply for the cancelation of the trademark and incur legal fees in order to retain a legal representative who could deal with trademark law. Claims have been made that Faleena Hopkins intentionally targeted authors who could not afford or issue such legal proceedings. While this has not been substantiated, Kneupper took it upon himself to fight the trademark battle without financial compensation or gain in order to assure the cancelation was issued.
Faleena Hopkins now states that she has decided to drop the trademark battle in order to turn back to writing novels and the continuation of her upcoming, self-funded movie. A movie she refuses to release a title for in “fear that someone else will use it for one of their books.”
However, as has since been pointed out on social media, IMDb has an upcoming film production listed under Faleena’s page. This movie is titled I Love My Breakup and is based on original material by Sabrina Lacey, who is a known pen name of Faleena Hopkins according to an interview she did with Digital Journal. However, currently, there is no definite confirmation yet that this is the movie title Hopkins was referring to in her Daily Mail article.
Hopkins has also released the following statement to the Daily Mail in relation to the entire “cockygate” saga.
“I never wanted any of this weirdness to happen. I would rather just give up the trademark and back away. My intention behind all this was a business move. I did not ever expect the war I created. Now we all agree that bullying is bad and that it got out of hand.”
There have also been claims by Hopkins that authors have been attacking her on social media and requesting she use a pen name as a result of the trademark battle. So far, perusing a variety of articles on the dispute, as well as social media commentary on the hashtag “cockygate,” there appears to be no validity to the claim that she should start using a pen name. Nor does it make much sense in relation to an issue that has dealt exclusively with a trademark issue in relation to Faleena’s book titles and not her author name.
Faleena Hopkins has previously been approached by the Inquisitr in relation to an interview, but the author declined the request.