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.
As of 5/14/18, it is noted on the TM website in the application for “Cocky” has a “Cancelation pending” notice.
So, there seems to be a trend for copycat TM’ing authors trying to get a hold of “Revolution” and “forever”. I’m not sure if this is for the publicity now, since Faleena Hopkins has gotten so much attention for what she did. But the author that TM’ed the word “forever”, Heidi McLaughlin, is claiming it was her agent or someone impersonating her, and is retracting the application.
Plus, an app has now been programed to help authors keep tabs on what words are being copyrighted and trademarked. It’s called CockyBot, and can help an author stay on top of things before receiving a take down notice.
So, the drama continues to unfold. I’ll keep adding more information as it happens. 😉
Update: June 7, 2018
Lawyers have gotten involved now. According to a letter and post on RWA’s website blog,
**(You may have to be a RWA member to get onto the site)
May 16 was the date that RWA sent a DEMAND LETTER to Faleena Hopkins to retract trademark infringement claims and future claims on behalf of RWA and Tara Crescent. Also, the letter asked to send documents to Amazon to retract the infringement, and to send proof of these actions of retraction, and to apologize. They are also filing to challenge the trademark.
May 25, Faleena Hopkins fired back with a Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining order against Tara Crescent, Kevin Kneupper, and Jennifer Watson in regards to publishing, selling, promoting and distributing, “Cocktales, the Cockiest Anthology”. Lawyers from RWA had to defend Tara Crescent at the TRO hearing to defend her right to keep her books published. The Temp. Restraining Order was denied.
RWA is funding Tara Crescent’s fees to fight in court! On June 1, Preliminary Injunction was denied in the New York court. But the fight continues on!
Stay tuned for updates. This can affect all authors in all genres. There is a run of people going to the trademark office now to file for different words and series names. On Twitter, you can follow the bot at: @cockybot.
UPDATE July 3, 2018: It looks like #CockyGate is over. Tara Crescent and Faleena Hopkins have settled in New York court. Faleena agreed to back down and Tara is changing the word “Cocky” into a different font. It seems both sides are backing down and compromising and that has to be at least something of a good outcome. Here is a Daily Mail article that explains the recent events taking mostly Faleena’s side.
I’m still looking for more on this. However, it looks like Faleena is trying to spin this in her favor, and calling others bullies. It just seems to me she didn’t understand the laws of trademark usage and tried to enforce something she really didn’t understand well. But that is just my opinion.
Lesson from all of this and what Cocky Gate might be remembered for: if you are an author, really talk to a lawyer or some professional that might know what they are doing. Because the repercussions can be real and costly. Saying you didn’t know isn’t an excuse. But it is possible, this just all blew up with out her meaning to. But then, on the other side, she could have handled it better in her letters in the first place.
Like I said, hopefully the entire author community will take this as a grain of salt in the learning process. Let’s just all try to keep it professional in the end.