Can You Trademark a Common Word? Court Says No


A romance writer cocky enough to trademark the word “cocky” lost her bid to stop other writers from using the word in book titles.  The U.S. District Court for Southern New York has ruled in favor of the Authors Guild and the Romance Writers of America (RWA) in asserting the principle that nobody should own exclusive rights to use a common word in book and series titles.

Judge Alvin Hellerstein issued the ruling against author Faleena Hopkins, who claimed exclusive rights to “cocky” for romance titles. When her trademark registration was issued in April, she sent notices to multiple authors telling them to change the titles of their books and asked Amazon to take down all other cocky-titled romance books, not just series.

The Authors Guild and the RWA joined forces against Hopkins, asking Amazon to put the books back on sale. The groups also sent a letter to Hopkins explaining their position. Hopkins countered by filing a lawsuit to seek an injunction, which Judge Hellerstein denied on May 25, 2018.

“The law is clear that individual titles cannot be trademarked, only series titles, and that common words cannot be trademarked at all unless they develop an association in the minds of the public with a particular source,” said the Authors Guild on its website.

Full Disclosure: I’m a proud member of the Authors Guild.

Read the story on the Authors Guild website:

Authors Guild and RWA Prevail in Court Defending Authors in “Cocky” Trademark Dispute

Read another court-related story:

Do We Really Need the Oxford Comma? A Federal Court Says Yes


Cindy Fazzi

Cindy Fazzi is a Filipino-American writer and former Associated Press reporter. She has worked as a journalist in the Philippines, Taiwan, and the United States.  Her short stories have been published in Snake Nation Review, Copperfield Review, and SN Review. Her first romance book, In His Corner, was published by Lyrical Press in April 2015 under the pen name Vina Arno.