After watching the hoopla over “Cockygate” the last few days, I have decided to blog about it, mostly for posterity sake. After all, I think this is the pioneer age of self-publishing, and there are some weird, crazy things happening that can get the global hive mind of the internet into a frenzy. Whether you’re a romance author or not, many people in publishing, authors, self-publishers(Indies) and writing groups have gotten involved. All behind the back drop of one author deciding to trademark her series name and protect her brand, most likely because of the making of an upcoming movie. What has happened is probably beyond what she or anyone else could imagine. Mass craziness in social media and writing message boards.
So, basically an author named Faleena Hopkins has registered the word “Cocky” because it relates to a family of characters she’s created and the name of her book series. She registered it with a trademark in a certain font, and now is going around threatening to sue all the authors that have the word “Cocky” appear in their title and telling them to change their titles. She sends a letter to the authors saying she can sue and take the money they’ve earned from their book.
Here’s a link to the letter she has been sending out in Tech Dirt’s Article:
So, authors with the word “cocky” had their books pulled from Amazon, because she reported their books as a violation of her TM. So, several authors either changed their titles and their covers to comply with her demands, or stood up to her and called on the RWA organization to help. To let you know, RWA or Romantic Writers of America is a writers group that helps romance writers with the business of doing writing. I am a member of my local chapter, and can’t say enough praises and help this organization does for writers. You must be a member if you write romance. But, I digress.
Here are tags to look on Twitter to follow along with the current scuttle on what is going on too: #cockygate #cocky #byefaleena #freecocky
Here’s an article about this from a few days ago in regards to the trademark legalese: http://legalinspiration.com/?p=503
I’ve also noticed RWA has tweeted that they are aware and asking for other authors to report to them that are affected. They have since helped the authors that have reported it to get their books back on Amazon.
Tweet from RWA: https://twitter.com/romancewriters/status/993883786931777536
The implications are clear. If authors start trademarking words and suing other authors for their use, it could be VERY messy. Imagine an author trademarking “aliens” or “starship” and suing sci-fi authors. I also do know one of the authors that got this email and lost two of her books, Tara Crescent. She’s been a part of some of my erotica/erotic romance deals that I do monthly. She lost two books entitled “Cocky Doctors” and “Cocky Firefighters”. They have since been reinstated on Amazon.
So, it’s hard for me to understand why someone would want to go out and hurt other authors like this. Especially, since it was amazing to see how wonderful the Romance and Indie community have really helped the authors that have been sent these emails and asked to change their titles or get sued. RWA helped reinstate the books that were taken down by Amazon. Many of the books were just pulled down and that is part of the reason why the panic happened, because the Zon tends to just pull or close accounts and then review each case individually. So, that is possibly why there was such a mass panic among the authors.
Cockygate is spilling into the other areas of the media now too. I’m guessing because the title is catchy and the implication on trying to copyright a word as a Trademark. Maybe Faleena Hopkins didn’t intend this to happen, and I know there have been huge amounts of negativity swung at her. She’s taken down her Facebook page and maybe soon her Twitter account may come down. It will definitely affect her career and who she can do business with in the future probably all due to trying to protect her perceived brand. She seems to still be saying she was just trying to help her readers buy the proper books. We’ll have to see how this all goes. There is already a filing against the Trademark patent by Kevin Kneupper that happens to be a lawyer and author.
This can all be a lesson for future self-publishing authors. You need to really look into something before you do it, because actions can have far reaching consequences in this day and age.
I will update when more information becomes available.