Romantic novelist’s trademarking of word ‘cocky’ sparks outcry | Books
Romance novelists have risen en masse to defend their right to use the word “cocky”, after one writer moved to trademark the adjective.
Faleena Hopkins is the self-published author of a series of books about the “Cocker Brothers” (“Six bad boy brothers you’ll want to marry or hide under you [sic] bed”), each of which features the word “cocky” in the title: Cocky Romantic, Cocky Biker, Cocky Cowboy. On Saturday, author Bianca Sommerland posted a YouTube video sharing allegations that Hopkins had written to authors whose books also had titles including the word “cocky”, informing them that she had been granted the official registered trademark of the adjective in relation to romance books, and asking them to rename their novels or face legal action.
Records at the US patent and trademark office show that the registered trademark for use of the word “cocky” in relation to romance ebooks was issued in April 2018.
Self-published writer Jamila Jasper, who claims she was asked by Hopkins to change the title of her novel Cocky Cowboy, said she removed her novel from sale after she was contacted by Hopkins. “I have to admit I am intimidated because I don’t have many resources to fight this legally if she does pursue,” she wrote on Twitter.
Pajiba reported on Monday that the author Nana Malone had been asked to change the title of her novel Mr Cocky, while TL Smith and Melissa Jane’s Cocky Fiancé has been renamed Arrogant Fiancé. Other writers claimed that Hopkins had reported them to Amazon, resulting in their books being taken down from the site.
Hopkins tweeted that the word was “a brand”, and that the writers she was contacting could “keep their books, rankings, reviews and their money by retitling which takes one day”. On Facebook, she said she was a victim of “cyber-bullying”, writing that she “applied for the trademark to protect the future of my series because it helps people. It’s filled with love, hope, and respect to all human beings.”
She added: “I receive letters from readers who lost money thinking they bought my series. I’m protecting them and that’s what trademarks are meant for.”
Others are not so sure. Chocolat author Joanne Harris punned that “such behaviour is considered a dick move” on her blog, adding more seriously that “if it were really possible to legally forbid authors from using a certain common word in their book titles, then the whole publishing industry would be down the drain in a matter of days”.
The Romance Writers of America is working with an intellectual property lawyer in response to Hopkins’s trademark, and has asked writers contacted by Hopkins to get in touch. Author and retired lawyer Kevin Kneupper has separately filed a legal challenge to have the trademark cancelled, writing that “as a competing author in the same field who has described characters in his books … as ‘cocky’ and who may use this word in … future titles”, the registration is “causing injury and damage”.
“Romance novels frequently involve ‘alpha males’ as their protagonists – and those alpha males are often described in the titles to the works using adjectives such as ‘cocky’,” says Kneupper’s petition, arguing that “such generic terms cannot be subject to a trademark”.
A petition to the US patent and trademark office asking it to cancel the “cocky” trademark has since been signed by more than 17,000 people.