Cock Fight Breaks Out Among Romance Writers in Trademark Row

Best-selling indie author Faleena Hopkins has got the self-publishing feathers flying with her legal actions aimed at protecting her Cocky series of books.

The Cocky series of 18 books has sold over 600,000 copies and has been a Kindle Unlimited All-Star for 15 months, according to the blurb on the latest Cocky instalment — Cocky Heart Surgeon.

That adds up to very decent money as the Cocky ebooks sell for around $3-$4, so at 70% royalty that’s $2.10-$2.80 per sale, and if you get into the Top 10 KU All-Stars list you pick up a handy $25,000 each month.

If you do get into the All-Stars your page reads by KU members would be running into the millions so you’d be raking in a hefty sum. There are two different sections for All-Stars with top authors and top titles getting payouts and it’s entirely possible that Hopkins could feature on both those lists.

All this is to say that she obviously has products to protect — as do all authors. The question is whether the trademark route is the right action to take as, after all, any author has copyright protection on their work.

As well as trademarking the word ‘cocky’ in the romance genre, Hopkins has also trademarked the font-specific word, although it’s claimed that the licensing for this font does not allow trademarking. Most font-specific trademarks use typefaces that have been specifically designed for a company to use.

She also appears to be claiming a trademark on the use of the words ‘Cocker Brothers’ as that also features a registered trademark symbol on its Kindle product page — see the ® symbols in the picture at the top of this post (all registered trademarks acknowledged of course).

Hopkins is said to have issued notices to writers using the word ‘cocky’ in the titles of their books. Hopkins claims the titles are in breach of her trademark of the word ‘cocky’ in the context of romance titles.

Many writers in the self-publishing business have been angered by Hopkins’ actions as they believe they are being censored and there is also a fear of further trademaking of commonly used words. There are around 24,000 signatures on a Move On petition to Cancel Faleena Hopkins ‘Cocky Trademark’.

Now indie author and patent lawyer (a useful combination) Kevin Kneupper has challenged the trademark on the word ‘cocky’ with a cancel petition to the US Patent Office and Trademark Office, claiming the word is too generic to be a trademark. The issue is likely to take some months to reach a resolution.

Some authors have seen their books containing the word ‘cocky’ in the title removed from sale on Amazon but the Romance Writers of America reports that it has contacted Amazon which has assured them they will not be removing titles from sale until the matter is resolved and has reinstated those that were previously removed.

Romance author Jamila Jasper has taken an interesting slant on the so-called Cockygate affair by publishing The Cockiest Cowboy To Have Ever Cocked, which is selling well on Amazon with its sales being boosted by indie authors eager to show their support.


Useful links:

A podcast interview on the website Horrible Writing has Kevin Kneupper explaining why he is challenging Hopkins’ trademark.

The Inquistr has an excellent article setting out the details of the case.

Legal Inspiration has a very thorough article looking at the legal issues.

You can also find a great deal of comment on the issue on Twitter under the hashtag #cockygate


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