What's in a name?

Recently there has been a lot of activity around an author’s (for the moment) successful attempt to trademark a common word in romance fiction. The word—cocky—is used in many romances to denote a type of brash, arrogant hero who has the world by the tail and knows it. It’s not my preferred type of romance but I assume that the hero’s arrogance is tempered when he meets the right woman.

The whole dustup has made me proud of the romance community. When authors and other professionals got wind of what was happening, from the pre-cease and desist notices to the insistence of retitling covers, to the outright takedown of similarly named titles, they went into action. Hashtags were born and a movement started.

It’s taken on a life of its own. While the word is not one I use in my titles, that doesn’t matter. It could be any word, if such a common word can be trademarked. Today it’s “cocky” tomorrow it could be “paranormal” or “shifter” or any one of the type of words associated with my preferred genre. Some people could say I have no skin in this game but that’s not the case. All authors do. As a matter of fact, through this process it was discovered that another company was trying to trademark the word “rebellion.” However, unless the author who trademarked “cocky” when the company was contacted about their overreaching trademark, they immediately rescinded parts of their claim to narrow their focus.

Through this kerfuffle I have learned that the romance community does what we say we do, and that is to pull together. The affected authors were supported, and their books purchased. A lawyer jumped in to challenge the trademark. RWA weighed in and got Amazon to stop unfairly taking down titles. It’s been a marvelous display of unity.

A lot of people made jokes about copyrighting ridiculously common words, like “the” and such. Seems absurd on the face of it but the truth is that this trademark debacle has pointed out that we have to be vigilant. This one may get overturned (I hope) but what else is out there? What other common words are people trying to trademark? They found the one, but if there are others it is a good time to stop those as well, now and in the future.

In the meantime the fury continues and all we can do is push forward and do everything we can to see that the legal challenge is successful. And watch for the next one. It is out there, I am sure.


Claire Davon

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