The Cocky Controversy

If you are in the romance community and have been online this weekend, you can’t have failed to see the latest drama to hit the community.


The short version of this is that a relatively unknown author who has a big ego has decided to register a few trademarks to “protect” her book series and her brand.  On the face of it there is nothing wrong with that. Many do it, but not like this.

Oh no.  Ms Faleena Hopkins hasn’t just registered a trademark for Cocker Brothers (the name of the series and a perfectly sensible trademark in my opinion).  She also registered two trademarks around the word cocky.

When I saw that the author was also a comedian I thought it might be a joke. So I went to do a couple of trademark searches and found that it was true.

Well, how cocky can you get?

If your name is Faleena Hopkins the answer is very.

The first trademark on the word cocky is one that covers the stylised use of the word. On the face of it, it is perhaps less controversial.  Well, at least until someone tells the creator of the font and they confirm their terms of service do not allow someone to trademark their fonts. Oops!

The second cocky trademark is even more problematic from the point of view of other authors, because Ms Hopkins is using that one to tell other authors to change their book titles.  Yes, you read that right. This author is telling other authors that they cannot use the word Cocky in their book titles and is actually sending them cease and desist letters to bully them into changing the titles with threats of a law suit.

You can check out the legal side of things on this post.

And it’s not just authors who have published stories after her own. She has allegedly contacted authors whose books were published prior to her own.  Oh, yeah, that would mean she wasn’t even the first author to use the “Cocky whatever” as her title.  Though that isn’t stopping her claiming this word for her own exclusive use.

Her reason for this is because her readers apparently email her to tell her they lost money by buying another author’s books. Um, so her readers don’t know her name?  Or how to return a book they accidentally one-clicked?  Apparently not. Though from the number of insulted readers/ex-readers on her Twitter feed I am rather skeptical about the existence of these alleged letters.

You can check out a full concise rundown of the situation here by the always informative Courtney Milan.

Now, Ms Hopkins is not the first author to get her knickers in a knot over a book title.  Far from it.  I have seen several authors over the years getting angry because someone else copied their title.

Now back when I was writing my first story for publication I had a working title that I loved.  It was Giving up the Ghost.  It was the perfect title for my story and one of the few that popped into my head right away. I usually struggle to come up with titles and some stories have been finished before I have found one. Loving Kit was a nightmare, though now I have decided to write more to that series I am finding it easier to come up with more in a similar style. But that first was a long time in coming.

But I digress. Giving up the Ghost was all written and ready to send to a publisher with my very first query letter.  Then I saw an email from an author I read, G.A. Hauser announcing an upcoming release called – you guessed it – Giving up the Ghost.  Even worse the book was due to come out at Halloween, the same week that the open call I had written my story for was going to be releasing the titles.  I knew it was a very slim chance that my story would be accepted, but if it was, and if the two books came out at the same time, it would not be ideal.  So I scrambled around for a new title and renamed it Touch of a Ghost.

But I know that there was no reason why I could not keep the title I had in the first place.  Book titles can and do get used again and again by numerous authors in the genre.  Titles are not copyrighted.  I took the decision to change my title but I could just as easily decided to ignore what I had seen and leave it as it was.  It was my choice not to.

Most authors who get in a snit about titles have a grumble on social media. Some of their readers might get up in arms and threaten to boycott the author (or even the publisher) they believe is copying their favourite author. Some might even go so far as to leave negative ratings and reviews on the other author’s book.  Seriously, don’t do this – it is petty and spiteful.

But not Ms Hopkins. She has taken it to the next level with her bullying tactics and the romance community is up in arms about it.

RWA is getting involved and there is talk of a class action suit against her.

Hopefully common sense will prevail soon, because this is a very slippery slope we are on.  What happens if everyone got in on this?  Well, we’d have a no words left to use for our titles in no time at all.

So I say it again – titles are NOT copyrighted.  Sooner or later someone will have a similar or identical title to one of your books.  It happens.   GET THE FUCK OVER IT and don’t be a Faleena about it.

So rant over, what can we do to help stop this nonsense?

Sign the petition to get the trademark cancelled.

Support the authors who are being bullied. I have now done a second post listing the authors and others who are deserving of support.

And remember, don’t be cocky!


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