Romance writer renames book after author trademarks 'cocky'
Author's book doesn't have the word 'cocky' in the title anymore, but uses 'cockiest' and 'cocked' instead
A romance author changed the name of her novel to The Cockiest Cowboy To Have Ever Cocked after she says she was told to stop using the word "cocky" in the title.
The writer, who asked to be identified by her pen name Jamila Jasper, had originally titled her book The Cocky Cowboy. She renamed it after receiving an email earlier this month from another author named Faleena Hopkins.
In the letter posted to Twitter, Hopkins told her she was in violation of her trademark on the word "cocky."
The message I received from "Cocky Gate". <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/freecocky?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#freecocky</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cockygate?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cockygate</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/rwa?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#rwa</a> <a href="https://t.co/HzAr4Qr9Ii">pic.twitter.com/HzAr4Qr9Ii</a>—@JamilaJasper
Hopkins's series of books feature characters called the Cocker Brothers. Some of her titles include Cocky Quarterback, Cocky Biker and Cocky and Out of My League.
In a tweet Hopkins said, "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."
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.—@FaleenaHopkins
Other romance authors have also been asked to change their titles, and the Romance Writers of America trade association has said it has been in touch with an attorney.
Jasper spoke with As It Happens host Carol Off about the trademark claim by Hopkins. Here's a part of that conversation:
Did you question that somebody could actually get trademark rights to the word cocky?
I did question it, and I went immediately to the [United States Patent and Trademark Office] … I searched it and the trademark was filed.
It was a real thing. No one had disputed it as of yet which meant that for me, from my perspective, if Amazon wanted to strike down my books or ban my account, they would feel that it was within their legal parameters to do so.
Faleena Hopkins had a series of books with titles like Cocky Heart Surgeon, Cocky Senator, Cocky Cowboy. So she had a similar one to your book, The Cocky Cowboy. Did you know that that book was out?
To be honest, I had never heard of her before until I received that email.
I was quite surprised honestly because it's not uncommon for romance authors to have books with the same title — sometimes even published at the same time.
With some of my colleagues in the romance industry, even some who write in my specific niche which is interracial romance, we have published titles with the same name at the same time before.
So I wasn't surprised that someone had the same title, but I had never heard of her specifically.
You weren't the only writer who got a letter like this or a warning from Faleena Hopkins. There's another author, Tara Crescent … She received a letter from Ms. Hopkins about that, as you did.
It wasn't even just the two of us. There were a few other people, a lot of smaller indie authors I know, who received letters like that.
If so many romance authors use cocky in their titles, I can guess, what effect does that have on sales?
Well, it has an effect if you have to take down your titles.
For me, I had to pay to get a cover redesigned very quickly. So, it was a rush job which costs more. And I also was unable to republish my paperback because it's too expensive to change all of that stuff for me as a smaller independent author.
So for other authors, that would definitely have a really negative impact on sales.
In general, if everyone, you know, picks a word and trademarks a single word we'd be pretty limited with sort of the funny puns we could make, let's say.
If someone wanted to trademark the word "billionaire" that could really knock out about half the industry.
Romance authors, we love our sort of steamy puns.- Jamila Jasper
But does the word cocky sell?
Yes. I would say that it does. You know, romance authors, we love our sort of steamy puns. And so anything like that that's sort of alliterative, that kind of hints at some of the steamy content of the book, is definitely going to sell.
Thanks to all who have sent info to RWA concerning trademarking of the word "cocky." We have been in touch with an IP attorney to seek advice/determine next steps. We appreciate info from both members & non-members, which can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org—@romancewriters
Amazon has responded to our request to say that they will not be removing titles from sale until this matter is resolved and have reinstated those they previously removed. We are still in discussion with counsel as to next steps and will report more as we are able. <a href="https://t.co/MCheapueye">https://t.co/MCheapueye</a>—@romancewriters
Update: After this interview aired, As It Happens received an email response from Faleena Hopkins.
Hopkins said she had been subjected to a cyber-bullying campaign in reaction to her trademark.
"I don't even disparage authors in my private FB Group despite what they're saying about me in every outlet they can find. It's a brutal frenzy disproportionate to the trademark action because someone — Jamila — cried 'bully' in a time when that word is so hated," she said.
"In fact it was her posting a private cease and desist letter on Twitter and who knows where else, that began the very public cyber attack on me."
Written by Katie Geleff. Interview produced by Julian Uzielli. This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.