Trademark Bullying: Attempts At “Owning” A WordMay 15, 2018 Arianna Gael Google Plus Link No Comments
UK game developer’s battle with author over book title.
The internet and piracy have frustrated many great content creators and developers, so it’s slightly understandable that when someone sees an open door to take back some measure of control–and money–they might pounce on the opportunity. Unfortunately, those efforts can lead to a lot of trouble for people, not the least of which would be the person who attempted to secure their content, while also turning the tide of public opinion against the person.
First, a game developer in the UK fought a David and Goliath-esque battle with a self-published author over the title of a book. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “Last month, a UK game developer, Games Workshop, complained to Amazon.com that an ebook, Spots the Space Marine, infringed its trademarks in the term ‘space marine.’ Turns out Games Workshop sells a popular game, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, and has registered marks in the term ‘space marine’ in connection with games. But Games Workshop lost all sense of proportion and decided that it also had trademark rights to the term in books. And thus a trademark bully was born.”
Not new and not yours
As EFF points out, ‘space marine’ is neither a new term nor one that Games Workshop even thought up. Second, the item in question is a book, not another space-themed game, or even a game in any genre. The function of the trademark is to protect both the rights holder and the consumer from accidentally purchasing a product under the belief that it is created by the trademark holder. That wouldn’t be the case here since Games Workshop doesn’t have any other ebooks based on its games.
Fortunately, the issue with the book has been resolved, but not until the author suffered some undue hardship and worry. Now, another author is inflicting this same kind of crap-heap onto other authors, and the results went just as sour for the author.
Faleena Hopkins, author of around 18 books with the word “cocky” in the title (you can envision the genre from the titles), decided to trademark her series title. Some sources actually refer to it as a wordmark, in much the same way that the iconic red and white flowing script of Coca-Cola is wordmarked against unauthorized use. After trademarking the name of her series, the author went about reaching out to other romance authors, telling them that she owns the word “cocky,” and demanding that they change the titles of their books or face her legal wrath.
This issue has not been resolved, but it doesn’t appear as though any resolution would be sufficient. The internet rage machine has turned against this author with the #cockygate hashtag for having the audacity to claim ownership of a word that first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary sometime in the 1700s. Her book ratings have been steadily falling on sites like Goodreads, the Romance Writers of America has announced its intention to hire an intellectual property attorney, and readers around the world have declared the self-promoting businesswoman has just gotten her last dollar out of them.