If you haven’t heard about #cockygate here is your nutshell:
An author, Faleena Hopkins, who has written a series of books, (initially called the Cocker Brothers of Atlanta) all with “Cocky” in the title, trademarked the single word, Cocky (for a series of romance books), and changed the name of the series to “The Cocky Series.” She maintains that other authors were copying her series and she had to do this to protect her brand. When the trademark was granted, she sent cease and desist letters to some authors who had series of books containing “Cocky” in their titles.
She also notified Amazon that these authors were violating her trademark. For those of you who don’t know, Amazon seems to embrace the policy “shoot first and ask questions later” when it comes to trademark or copyright infringement. They assume the accuser is correct and remove books from sale. She has also filed a lawsuit against several people.
I’m not going to go into the specifics about her trademarks or the lawsuits, you can find the details for these all over the internet. But I am going to touch briefly on why one might choose to register and use a trademark.
As I understand it, one thing that trademarks are intended to do is identify “source.” When you see a trademark, it tells you certain things about the source of the product (who makes it, manufacturing quality, and so on). When you see Coke® on a beverage container, you absolutely know what’s inside, and you know you can expect a certain consistent quality. So the trademark Coke® identifies source. The trademark becomes synonymous with the company and its products.
I trademarked Duncurra®. It is a fictional castle that appeared in my first novel. I made up the word and use it as my company name (Duncurra LLC). It is my intellectual property and I use it to identify everything I publish.
The indie author community is outraged that a single, common word could suddenly be someone’s trademark. I, and many of my peers, aren’t convinced that the word “Cocky” identifies “source” for her books. The Cocker Brothers–absolutely. The Cocky Brothers–also possible. The Cocky Cocker Brothers–perhaps overkill, but sure. But not Cocky on it’s own and not if it means that no one else can use it in titles. Just for the record, there are lots of Cocky books, many of which predated Ms. Hopkins first book, Cocky Roomie.
Many authors see this as a slippery slope. If someone trademarks “Cocky” what is to stop someone else trademarking “Highland” or “Knight” or “Billionaire” and then forcing the rest of us to change our titles?
There have been slings and arrows from both sides. And by slings and arrows, I mean videos, open letters, protest books or series. For example, I created the Kah Key Club series and invited other authors to join me writing their own stories set at the fictional, adults only resort, set in the Florida Keys (my title is Kah Key Stranger). They are parodies of erotic romance in general, and to a lesser degree trademarks.
One of the more recent additions to the social media battle is a blog post by Faleena Hopkins, structured as a letter to herself. In the letter she states that no one from the opposition reached out to her.
Fair enough. So I did.
I composed a letter to her that was NOT an open letter. In the letter I attempted to understand her perspective as well as sharing my own. I invited her to contact me for a chat and gave her all of my personal contact information. I sent it to her via a Facebook message. I know, not the most reliable. But I also left a comment for her on her blog post, simply stating that I would like to chat and directing her to the letter. The comment never appeared–but I suspect she didn’t allow any comments on that post to appear. Still, she would have been able to see it.
So, Ms. Hopkins, I’m fairly certain you will never see this, but I would like to chat. I would like to try to understand all of this from your point of view. I would also like to share my point of view. Perhaps we can both walk away enlightened. Check your FB messages for one from me, send me a FB message or leave a message here.
Okay…so a tiny bit of this post was an open letter. 🙂