Re: What This Week’s Trademark Upheaval Means to You

posted 5/9/18

Dear Readers…

If you’re bewildered by this week’s #ccckygate trademark upheaval, you’re not alone. It started in the romance lit realm but potentially affects all authors, so today I give context and provide links to help you understand this specific instance and the greater copyright issues at play. Please pardon my misspelling of the key word – I don’t want to trigger any anti-spam features with an adjective that’s not offensive in most uses but inappropriate enough in others to get today’s post blocked. Please read on so you understand what’s happening and what’s at stake.

Yours in the trenches,
The Editor


What’s happening…

I’m frequently asked about copyright issues. It’s a complex and scary topic for writers. My answer always includes the warning that anyone can sue for any reason at any time, even if they’re wrong. This week, a writer triggered that fear. (If you’re reading this on a desktop, please use the bright blue scroll bar because this post is a tad longer than usual.) She contacted some authors, instructing them to remove the word “c*cky” from their books’ titles. She represented that she’d trademarked the word and would sue them for using it. At least one complied, also changing promo materials. There are many legal questions about the way the author represented her trademark, and the legitimacy of the trademark itself. Social media erupted. Amazon took down books with that word in their titles and began deleting customer reviews that included the adjective—for ANY books, in ANY genre. The flood of info and commentary makes the details hard to discern. Know this: This potentially affects all authors, should people try the same strategy for other words, and as Amazon’s broad actions demonstrate. Kevin Kneupper, author and retired IP lawyer, filed a Petition for Cancellation with the US Patent and Trademark Office to help avoid that. Romance Writers of America is prepping action and asked Amazon to stop removing reviews and books while this is being contested. To understand what’s happening and the problems with trying to trademark a common word in this manner, read this great post (it includes the contact letter), and listen to Kevin’s excellent interview at Horrible Writing. Knowledge is power.

P.S. For more on this topic, read Contracts, Publishing Biz
posted by: The Editor
under: Contracts, Publishing Biz
Comments to "Re: What This Week’s Trademark Upheaval Means to You" | Add a Comment
    1. Carol Riggs wrote (on 05/09/18 at 8:31 pm) :

      Wow. What is the world coming to? Thanks for bringing this to my attention; I’ve been busy doing real world stuff and missed the hullaballoo.

    2. The Editor wrote (on 05/10/18 at 8:05 am) :

      I hope your “real world stuff” was good stuff, Carol. 🙂

    3. The Editor wrote (on 05/10/18 at 8:00 am) :

      UPDATE: Amazon responded to RWA’s request. According to RWA, Amazon “will not be removing title from sale until this matter is resolved and have reinstated those they previously removed.”

    4. Sue Ford wrote (on 05/10/18 at 9:59 am) :

      Thanks, Deborah, for sharing what you know. And yea for Amazon listening to RWA.