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If a Book Title is a Brand, it should be eligible for trademark protection. Right?… Right?

Trademarks? Is there a Book to Explain what that is?

No need! We here at Wilson Dutra are more than willing to provide an overview of trademarks. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) defines a trademark as “any word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these things that identifies your goods or services”. In simpler terms, a trademark is a brand, the identifier of your goods and services to the public. Registering your trademark with the USPTO offers the opportunity to protect your brand in relation to your specific goods and services. When book titles are typically the prime identifier of an author’s work, can they acquire a trademark registration?

 

This Brand is for the Books

The answer to the question above depends on a variety of factors. The law prevents the title of a single creative work from being protected through trademark. Rather, if an author wants trademark protection for the title of their book, they would have to expand the title into a book series. For example, “The Great Gatsby” cannot receive a trademark for its book title but the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy could as it exists as a series.

 

Trademarks Judge a Book By Its Cover

There are strategies to protect the brand of your book without making it into a sequel, spin-off, or a series. If you are able to create goods and services under the brand that are separate from the book itself, that can enable certain protections that you may desire. For example, an author may create an online store that is named after the title of their book, this may enable them to include the sale of books in the trademark class for their book title. For example, J.K. Rowling famously expanded the reach of Harry Potter by creating Pottermore, a retail space that expanded the Harry Potter brand beyond the books.  Given the expanding protection the USPTO is affording registered brands, if a similar brand is filed for a book series, the USPTO may prevent its registration due to the likelihood that it is compared to your existing trademark for the retail store services.

While you may not be able to file for books specifically, you can potentially acquire some protections to prevent others from doing so. However, this protection is not as strong as filing a trademark for the book series and the USPTO may not find that the existence of other goods and services under the brand covers it.  It’s crucial to acknowledge that this protection might not be as robust as a trademark specifically for your book series. The USPTO may scrutinize the scope of protection offered by other goods and services under your brand, potentially leaving gaps in coverage.

 

Come for the King, You Best Not Miss

Are you an author seeking to safeguard the integrity of your book brand against potential imitators and copycats? While the allure of sequels and spin-offs may seem like the obvious path to expand your literary empire, there are alternative strategies that can provide robust brand protection without necessarily venturing into serialized storytelling.

Let’s take a page from the playbook of another iconic author: Stephen King. Renowned for his mastery of horror fiction, King has not only captivated readers with his terrifying tales but also fortified his brand through astute business maneuvers. One notable example is King's utilization of his brand beyond the confines of his novels.

Consider King’s foray into the realm of film and television adaptations. Beyond simply licensing the rights to adapt his books, King established himself as a producer and screenwriter, actively involved in the adaptation process. This multifaceted approach not only ensured faithful translations of his works to the screen but also expanded the reach of his brand into new mediums.

Moreover, King didn’t stop there. Recognizing the value of merchandise in bolstering brand recognition and protection, he authorized the creation of various products inspired by his novels. From action figures to board games, King’s brand transcended the pages of his books, permeating pop culture and solidifying his place in the literary pantheon.

By diversifying his brand through film, television, and merchandise, King erected a formidable shield around his literary kingdom. This strategic expansion not only mitigated the risk of copycats attempting to capitalize on his success but also cultivated a loyal fan base across different platforms.

Now, you might be wondering, "How does this apply to me as an author?" The key takeaway is the power of diversification in safeguarding your brand. While you may not have the resources or inclination to delve into film production or merchandise licensing, exploring alternative avenues for brand expansion—such as audiobooks, podcast adaptations, or interactive online experiences—can yield similar benefits.

In essence, protecting the brand of your book requires thinking beyond the confines of traditional sequels and spin-offs. By following in the footsteps of Stephen King and embracing a multifaceted approach to brand expansion, you can erect a fortress around your literary legacy, ensuring that your creations endure in the face of imitators and admirers alike.

 

The End

Ultimately, the best way to protect your book title as a trademark is by making it into a book series. This allows a writer to register a trademark for books specifically, strengthening its protection on the register. There are other ways that your writing is protected, however, if you are trying to protect the title itself, trademarks are typically your best option.