This Romance Novelist Trademarked the Word ‘Cocky’
And now she’s threatening other writers with legal action if they don’t change their book titles
Arrogant, brash, confident, bumptious, swollen-headed, swaggering, cocksure—indie authors with a fondness for steamy scenes better crack open that old thesaurus, because “Cocker Brothers” author Faleen Hopkins thinks she owns the word “cocky” now.
You may (or may not) have heard of Hopkins’ series featuring six bad-but-not-really-boy brothers and their glistening abs. Starting with the first back in May 2016, Hopkins has been on fire publishing book after book of Cocky [Insert Fantasy Male Archetype here]: roommates, bikers, cowboys, marines. You name it, she’s cocked it.
Hopkins’ journey from photographer/actress to indie writer is an inspirational success story (up to a point) for anyone who hopes to make a living off self-publishing. Hopping between tales of supernatural vampire lovers and erotic bodice rippers, her writing has gained her a steady following, and her Cocker Brothers Series is prominent enough to deserve its own brand.
Too bad Hopkins took that fame a touch too far when she decided to file a trademark not only for the title of the series, but for the use of the word COCKY in any and all romance titles.
Back in September 2017, Hopkins filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which as of April 17, 2018 registered the word as trademarked “without claim to any particular font style, size, or color.” In essence, Hopkins is laying claim to COCKY. Any other romance authors who want to use it in their title will have to fight her for it.
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Sound extreme? Well, Hopkins took things a step further when she began going around to various independent authors via social media and email requesting that they retroactively rename their novels on Amazon else they risk legal repercussions.
The message I received from "Cocky Gate". #freecocky #cockygate #rwa
Hopkins defends herself in a series of tweets on May 4 claiming that she wants to enforce the trademark not for herself but for her readers.
@OutlanderKitchn @SageHillfarms 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.
She also emphasizes for any authors who may be upset with her actions: “It’s a brand. And everyone who wants to can keep their books, rankings, reviews and their money by retitling which takes one day.”
Hopkins is not unfounded in this belief. Titles are one of the eBook details that can be changed relatively easily on Kindle Direct Publishing.
However, what she does not remark on are the difficulties and costs included in changing titles, redesigning covers, and remarketing books that were already published and bought by readers. Pushback against Hopkins’ trademark has already begun under tags like #CockyGate and #SaveCocky on Twitter, and as of May 8, 2018, a petition to cancel the COCKY trademark achieved over 18,000 signatures from writers and readers who reject ownership of words.
Why is #cockygate important for ALL writers? Suppose... A sci-fi writer TM's "space" and "alien" A fantasy writer TM's "sword" and "magic" A mystery writer TMs "murder" and "mystery" You see where I'm going with this? This is NOT branding and it impacts ALL writers.
While Hopkins has every right to defend her original content, it is a shame that it comes at the expense of her fellow independent authors who can’t afford a lawsuit battle. Even if it is legally permissible, it is in effect an assault on the romance publishing community, at least among independent authors — and it’s not one that’s likely to endear Hopkins to people who might otherwise want to publish or work with her.
But maybe she doesn’t care. After all, judging from her recent behavior, she’s brash, swaggering, confident, swollen-headed… oh. Maybe this is just research for her next book, Cocky Author.