Obtaining a trademark for a common word is near-impossible because common words are very generic, and they cannot be exclusively trademarked by one person or entity.
If one single writer is able to trademark a word that is so commonly used in the romance writing industry, it would mean that no one else can use that word in their book writing careers for as long as that trademark exists, what, pray tell, would happen to the world of steamy romance writing as we know it?
To give you a better idea of what I am talking about, let us revisit the reason why anyone obtains a trademark. Trademark means: a symbol, word, or words legally registered or established by use as representing a company or product. (Oxford: Again, I say, thank you).
When a person or business is able to successfully register a trademark, it means that it becomes a symbol, word or words that represents that person or business, and nobody else can use it.
Therefore, if I am a romance writer, and I register a trademark on the word ‘cocky’, it means I can sue any other romance writer – or any other writer in similar writing ‘industry’ – that uses the word.
It’s a cool thing to have for your business – But in this particular case of trademarking the word ‘cocky’, as a lawyer in matters of trademark, I would unequivocally say: It is not a good move.
Why?: The word ‘cocky’ is too common. This particular author was trying to create a brand for herself, to stand out as unique, and readers would be able to recognize any book out there in commercial space with the word ‘cocky’ as belonging to her alone. It is a good business strategy – But it failed because a good trademark strategy was not applied for this registration.
How do you register a trademark for your writing business so that you can create a brand that readers – and the rest of the industry – would recognize as belonging to you? You need to have a trademark branding strategy that uses either unique words or common words that have developed secondary meaning.
Let me describe how you can choose a brand that will help your writing stand out in 4 easy steps of a naming strategy. There are 4 ways through which you can use words or symbols to create a trademark for yourself: You can do it arbitrarily, fancifully, suggestively or descriptively.
- Arbitrary branding: This is when you use a name or symbol that has no logical relationship to the product you are calling by that name. For instance, a brand of cigarettes is called “Camel” cigarettes. There is no logical relationship between camels and cigarettes. Therefore, if you trademark such a name for your cigarette business, there is very likely no other business that will think of naming their cigarette business after camels because it is such an arbitrary, unrelated word to the business. If you are a writer and you need a trademark that is arbitrary so that your readers will know you by that arbitrary name, and so that other writers would likely not even consider going near such a name for themselves because it is so ‘out there’, you now know what to do. If you need help coming up with outrageously arbitrary romance novel names…Write to me below.
- Fanciful branding: Another way to find a trademark that will brand your writing business uniquely is by choosing a fanciful word or symbol. Fanciful words or symbols do not mean anything. In other words…When you use them, they have no meaning to most or all witnesses that hear them or see them. And yet – They will be able to relate it to your writing business because you chose it for you. A good example: Clorox. To this day, I have no idea where the word “Clorox” came from. Yet, someone used that word to name their bleach laundry product. Therefore, maybe you want to name your romance business or book series something fanciful like: The Blorox Books of Romance? Okay. I am kidding. That is a terrible example. However – You get the picture. Therefore, get out there and be fanciful.
- Suggestive branding: You can choose suggestive words or symbols to make your writing business stand out, and to keep it branded from other businesses. A suggestive trademark is a word or symbol that suggests what your product is about, or in this case, what your story or book is about. Using the example of a random product: A product called “Sun bum” will probably suggest to you that it has something to do with the sun. Maybe tanning. Therefore, the name of the product suggest what the underlying product is about. For your book or writing business, what would you like to suggest to your reading audience or other writing colleagues out there? Something that you want them to know you stand for in your writing, perhaps? Maybe “The Author that Gets You Betroth”? Okay, my examples today are slightly atrocious. However, does this brand name or trademark not suggest to your reading fans that you are a writer related to something about romance, marriage, ‘betrothin’’? Alright – Go crazy, think of something suggestive.
- Descriptive branding: Finally – You can use descriptive words to brand your writing trade. I will start by cautioning you about using this descriptive mark, though. Descriptive words ‘describe’ what your business is about, exactly as the definition implies. For instance, the author that tried to brand the word ‘cocky’ was using a descriptive word (adjective) in the romance writing business. In order to succeed with a descriptive trademark, that word you are using must have developed ‘secondary’ meaning in the eyes of the public. This means that everyone in your community, and in the writing world, in fact, knows you by those words so that if you trademarked them, there would be no dispute that it already belonged to your brand. Let’s consider an example: Harry Potter. If I looked through the world phone directory (if there was such a thing), I highly suspect that there are several individuals out there with the name “Harry Potter” or a variation of the name like “Henry Porter” or “Harry Portier” or…some real life Harry Potters. If you tried to write a book, before J.K. Crawling did, about ‘Harry Potter’ and tried to trade mark the name, you would likely not have succeeded, especially since the community or consumer out there does not know you as a writer who they should recognize as the creator of a character called “Harry Potter.” However, J.K Rawlings is known worldwide today for writing the Harry Potter series. The name now has ‘secondary meaning’ for her business i.e. everyone knows her in association with those words or the name “Harry Potter.” Therefore, if J.K. Rawlings registered a trademark to set her business apart from others e.g. “The Harry Potter Writer”, it would not be disputed. Everyone now associates her with Harry Potter. Therefore, to use a descriptive trademark, you need to ‘wait’ for the world to recognize you by that word or symbol first. This is risky as someone else could beat you to registering the trademark while you are waiting.
For this reason, a descriptive mark is probably not the best way to go when you are trying to brand your writing business.
I hope you have a good idea of what to do to make your writing business stand out in the sea of so many other writings. Have you considered a brand for your writing business but not sure if it will work? Or have you successfully launched a brand and you are crushing it? Either way – Brilliant move. If you would like to share your success story or journey, comment below!
You can also reach out to me privately on my contact page and tell me what you think, or if you need any help with your branding strategy.