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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Don’t get cocky, kid

You know you are a nerd when you are avidly googling the name of the author of a series of erotic novels all of which feature the word “cocky” in their titles because of the interesting legal issues the “Cockygate scandal” has brought up.

Dale L Roberts vlogs about self-publishing. In this video published on May 7th he explains that Faleena Hopkins, the author in question, wrote a slew of “Cease and Desist” letters to other indie romance authors on Amazon using the word “cocky” in their titles. Amazon, with typical cowardice, removed these other authors’ books as soon as Hopkins asked them to. Worse yet, Faleena Hopkins’ letter to the other authors included the phrase “My attorney at Morris Yorn Entertainment Law has advised me that if I sue you I will win all the moneys you have earned on this title plus lawyer fees will be paid by you as well.” I suspect that Morris Yorn Entertainment Law are not entirely happy with this summary of their advice.

I came across this story via the fantasy/SF author Chris Fox. His nine minute video dated May 11th explains well why this incident should and did arouse the anger of the community of authors who self-publish on Kindle and similar platforms – but he also spares a thought for Hopkins herself. In the four days since the earlier video, the situation had changed dramatically – and the trouble with internet shaming is that even when some punishment is deserved, there is no off switch.

17 comments to Don’t get cocky, kid

  • Many years ago, but well within the existence of the bloggosphere, I formed the personal policy of judging interest in a posting on the title and first paragraph. This for the obvious reason that otherwise, on balance, one’s life is taken up with the less than worthwhile.

    This posting of Natalie’s has failed that test.

    Given her established good reputation with me, I do hope I can find the enthusiasm to return for reconsideration – later.

    Best regards

  • the US patent and trademark office show that the registered trademark for use of the word “cocky” in relation to romance ebooks was issued in April 2018.

    Long ago, my then employer asked me to acquire software patents (for some work I did for them) as part of their defensive patenting strategy. (As Porton Down scientists study biological weapons only because of the UK’s intent only ever to defend against them, so I acquired my patents only because I was confident my employer would only use them defensively: if anyone sued them for supposed software patent infringement, they’d look through their holdings for a patent the suer was as-claimably infringing and thus defend themselves.)

    The experience gave me a low opinion of the ability of the office to judge key issues of definition, newness, etc. But I am still astonished the trademark was granted.

    She “applied for the trademark to protect the future of my series because it helps people. It’s filled with love, hope, and respect to all human beings.”

    I’m sure it’s filled with “love” (in one sense of that word at least). I would describe as ‘hopeful’ her belief she can claim the earnings of anyone else using her trademarked title word. As for ‘respect to all’, it seems fellow authors are omitted.

  • Vinegar Joe

    She probably attended my alma mater: The University of South Carolina (THE REAL USC). Go Cocks!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3lgt3dmSDs

  • Brian Swisher

    You can trademark pretty much anything you want; they’ll be happy to take your money. However, that and five bucks will get you a mocha latte at Starbucks when it comes to the defensability of said trademark.

  • bobby b

    Niall Kilmartin
    May 14, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    “But I am still astonished the trademark was granted.”

    This. Exactly.

    Most of our trouble in the US with patent trolls and trademark fights stem from the inability of the office that issues each – the US Patent and Trademark Office – to make reasoned and reasonable decisions.

    The law involved seems fairly clear in each individual case, but requires some subjective interpretation. I suspect the USPTO has simply decided to review whether the proper forms have been submitted and properly filled out without making in-depth reviews of each application, and then letting the contestants fight it out in the marketplace and the courts.

    Which isn’t working all that well.

  • NickM

    I agree with Nigel here. I have no idea what this is about and am not intrigued enough to find out.

  • bobby b

    “I have no idea what this is about and am not intrigued enough to find out.”

    Well, this has promise of working itself into a fascinating discussion of the impossibilities of properly administering trademark and patent application law (in the US, at least), in that we expect our lowly application clerks to work out solutions to issues such as “source identification function” that go on to baffle our most learned judges, but if you make your book-reading decisions based on cover art, well, I admire your certainty.

    😉

    What’s that? “Fascinating” is in the eye of the beholder? Humph.

  • Fucking Hell! I could be in trouble

    If anyone suggests that I re-title my novel with anything other than “Rebellion”, they will be reminded of Arkell v Pressdram.

  • Justin

    @LongRider

    You may have to do that. I think I have used ‘ion’ in several of my titles already, and shall be instructing my legal department accordingly. May I cordially suggest dropping just that portion of the title, or perhaps changing it to “Jacobean Disobedience”, as I already also use ‘Rebel’ in other media titles.

  • Albion's Blue Front Door

    Someone once told me — and I accept this may not be accurate — that a well-known software company tried to patent the word “Windows” but failed as it seemed difficult to stop people saying “your windows are dirty, get them cleaned”

    On the other hand, I heard that a large breakfast cereal company once stopped a competitor using the name ‘Bisk-a-wheat’ so in my usual way, when shopping at my local supermarket I always use the banned name in the cereals aisle.

  • […] had not heard of cockygate until Natalie Solent mentioned it at Samizdata. Long story short, Felena Hopkins an indy author of romantic fiction was very silly […]

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Nigel Sedgwick and NickM, a copyright troll tried to legally prevent other authors from using the word “cocky” in their book titles.

    It would have been very bad news for authors if she had succeeded in setting the precedent that individual words in book titles could be trademarked in this way.

  • NickM

    Yeah, I got it now.

    Thanks.

  • NickM

    Actually (this might be somewhat apocryphal) but about 20-ish years ago didn’t Mattel try and copyright part of the EM spectrum – “Barbie Pink”?

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    NickM, according to Mental Floss that story about Mattel and Barbie Pink is true. Though it does seem as if their ownership of that exact shade of pink does not extend to every application:

    Another protected shade of pink: Barbie Pink. It’s trademarked for use in more than 100 categories, from bubble bath to cereal. Mattel, Barbie’s parent company, sued MCA Records in 1997 when the song “Barbie Girl” by Aqua came out. Mattel wasn’t pleased about the use of their product in the song, of course, but they also alleged that the song’s album cover resembled Barbie packaging too closely, including the use of Barbie Pink. The judge threw the case out of court with the memorable ruling, “The parties are advised to chill.”

    Also, not to nitpick to nitpick obsessively, pink, not being a pure colour, is not part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

  • Paul Marks

    Without going into the basic issue of Intellectual Property I think there can be general agreement that patents and copyrights are being pushed to silly (and harmful) levels in same cases and areas.

    As for Amazon and other Corporate Cowards – awful behaviour, as usual.

  • Surellin

    The trademark was issued in 2018? Then Han Solo has precedence by about 40 years. The article title IS “Don’t get cocky, kid”.