I’m pretty sure this is all over the internet and old news already, but hey why not revive my dead blog with something where I can say the word ‘cocky’ over and over again? Seems like a grand idea, and besides I’ve been following the ‘#cockygate‘ tag on Twitter for like an age so I feel like I need to.
So, here’s a brief overview because there is a lot to it and definitely more than this.
Faleena Hopkins, an indie romance author
whom no one had ever heard of before this, recently trademarked the word ‘cocky’ in relation to eBook series within the romance genre. She trademarked both the word itself and the stylised version of it in a font that she did not have the permission to use for trademarking purposes… because that’s not going to come back and bite you or anything.
She claims this trademark is because her readers were mistaking other books with ‘cocky’ in the title for books from her series and that they were losing money from their mistakes. Umm, pretty sure people can check author names? And there’s always the option to return the mistaken purchase? Like, that’s a thing. Granted it may not be a worldwide thing depending on the platform, but considering how people were able to return month or year old purchases on Amazon after the whole Santino Hassell catfish and abuse/gaslighting thing (which I’m not meaning to make light of at all because it was and still is awful for a lot of people) became public I’m pretty sure Amazon’s kind of chill with returning even mistaken orders? I haven’t returned an eBook before, so I’m not entirely clear on the process, but I can’t imagine it being difficult to find?
Anyway, the funny thing is before submitting the trademark for review her book series was not called The Cocky Series but The Cocker Brothers of Atlanta, despite her use of the word ‘cocky’ in each of the book titles it wasn’t used in the series name and doesn’t justify her trademarking the word ‘cocky’. In fact, there was a series published prior to her series title change that was called The Cocky Series which (you’d think) would pretty much prove that she shouldn’t have been able to trademark the word in relation to a series, to begin with. However, the trademark was approved. Great. ( ˭̴̵̶᷄൧̑ ˭̴̵̶᷅)
With her newly approved trademark, Hopkins sent cease and desist notices to various authors on Amazon stating that she’d trademarked the word ‘cocky’ and asking them to change their book titles. She stated that this would only take one day, despite the fact that it would involve changing the covers, any merchandise, any marketing material, updating various social media and personal/professional websites, etc, etc, which would all take a lot more time
and possibly money than Hopkins likes to think. Jamila Jasper, author of Cocky Cowboy, received one and ended up changing the title of her book to The Cockiest Cowboy To Have Ever Cocked, and other authors have been changing their titles as well from ‘cocky’ to ‘arrogant’ or ‘sexy’. Some authors, like Tara Crescent, didn’t receive cease and desist emails at all and had their works taken down by Amazon. Thankfully they’ve since been re-added and the RWA have been in contact with Amazon who has advised that they won’t be taking down any other works until this has been sorted and that they’ve reinstated the works that have been taken down. However I’m not sure if any reviews that had been taken down for using the word ‘cocky’ have been reinstated though? Are they still filtering them out or…? Also! Kevin Kneupper has submitted a petition to contest the trademark as well, so that’s in the works too which is fantastic.
Hopkins, who seemed to be enjoying all of the internet infamy initially, has recently changed tune from her cocky virtual popcorn munching and bragging about changing the indie publishing industry for good to playing the victim. Her profiles have changed to decrying cyber bullying, and her book descriptions include warnings to not take notice of any reviews after 4th May because they’re all ‘fake’ and from ‘cyber bullies’. Everyone has been calling her out on her actions and what she’s said and done, from what I’ve seen they haven’t attacked her personally. I think that if she were to take the trademark for ‘cocky’ down and sincerely apologise this would go a lot better for her, but it really seems like she’s doubling down on it and well… okay, you do you. I’ve heard that she’s gone after different authors before as well though, and it seems like she’s looking at everyone as competition and just competition. She seems to think anyone with similar titles or premises are out to copy her (which lol no) and it kind of seems like she’s concerned that the series can’t stand on its own without having to remove ‘the competition’ somehow. Even though she brags about selling over half a million copies, so uh, if you’re selling that much why worry so much about trademarking an adjective.
But, this whole trademark thing… it’s really shitty. Hopkins feels that she’s doing a good thing for the industry, but she’s not. If Hopkins’ trademark stays active (is that the right word?) and she gets to force people to change their titles or force the removal of others’ works then what does this mean for the future of indie (or even traditional) publishing? Will we all need lawyers on retainer to trademark words for our titles? Will traditional publishing companies start trademarking words first? Hey, gotta get ahead of the competition and keep a hold on that market somehow amirite? Maybe a word trademark black market??? Okay, I’m exaggerating a lot, but trademarking a commonly used word and then going after indie authors with the threat of legal action is such a shitty thing to do.
On the plus side, though, so many wonderful authors are coming out and supporting each other and working hard to keep track of this as it goes on. ‘#ThisIsHowYouIndie‘ is full of authors posting books with the same or similar titles to their own, a lot of cover artists are coming forward offering their services to authors affected, some hilarious parodies and stories written out of spite have come out as well, and someone even made a bot to try to catch any future trademark related issues.
I’m not involved in publishing at all, indie or otherwise
(maybe one day when I finish something lol), but even as a reader I’m upset about this issue. Authors should be supporting each other and not be trying to remove the competition through trademark trolling, unfounded threats of litigation (many of the books affected were published before Hopkins’ trademark gained validity so her threats wouldn’t have had legal standing, I think?), etc. If this trademark stands, then, yes it will probably change publishing forever but not for the better. It’s going to make it harder on everyone, and who would want that? Seriously.
Note: I am in no way shape or form a lawyer. My knowledge of trademark law (particularly US trademark law) is iffy at best. All I know is what I’ve read on Twitter, and so some of what I say about it may be incorrect (or all of it may be incorrect, who knows). Her trademark isn’t even valid here in Australia (I think? It doesn’t show on our trademark site anyway), but it’s still a really concerning issue anyway so I figured why not post about it. It’s kind of important even though it’s currently only affecting one genre, it could end up affecting other ones in the future after all.