Back in 2018, we had #cockygate, which I wrote about on BookMojo when the Cocktales anthology was released. For those who dont know about it, in that case, an author no one had ever heard of trademarked the common use word ‘cocky‘ and then started reporting or suing authors who use the word cocky in their book titles. Go ahead. Click here to see a current search the word cocky on the Kindle store. I’ll wait… … …
Crazy right? Never mind the sheer volume of books that have the word cocky in the title or series name, these are not smalltime authors. Not in the indie publishing world. She filed that trademark claim knowing damn well who she’d be trying to shut down. To think you can lay claim on a word that is used sooooooo often in the romance world was absolutely stupid. Just breathtakingly stupid. Well, it’s happening again and this time, an indie favorite romance author Tawdra Kandle is feeling the sting of betrayal from a fellow writer. (ooooooh, that sounded super-dramatic, didn’t it??? I feel like we’re on daytime TV!)
VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU READ THIS PARAGRAPH: Okay, before I get into this, please, please, PLEASE do not bombard the challenging author with bad reviews. Tawdra Kandle has a Go Fund Me to help pay for her legal costs and she’s got lawyers on it already. Her Amazon Author Central page has been restored while Amazon investigates but when all this initially broke yesterday, her author account had been deleted by Amazon for infringement. Bombarding the challenging author with bad reviews is NOT the way to get justice worked out in this case. That can be used against Tawdra and we don’t want that. So, please, no bullying.
IF YOU WANT TO SUPPORT TAWDRA KANDLE, you can chip in to her legal fund via the GoFundMe page OR you can hop over to this social media post of hers and buy her books from any retailer BUT Amazon. While they have restored her profile, it would have taken them two seconds of looking at the trademark filing and her books to know that it was a bullshit claim. Authors made Amazon what it is and they need to return to showing us a little respect for that fact. She may only be one author but I support her effort. As an author, dealing with Amazon on admin issues has been a little like getting banged by a pinecone. The fact that they initially deleted her profile without a second glance totally tracks.
So, to asshats currently turning the cogs at Amazon:
What?!?! I’m smiling so it’s not mean.
Okay, so here is what happened in this case.
A nonfiction author by the name of Glenda Dugar was granted a trademark on the word mark CAREER SOLDIER on a series of non-fiction books featuring autobiographical content. It’s a series of three books published to date, and across the series, we’re talking about a total of 276 pages and 9 reviews. On Goodreads, only 2 reviews across the series and there are no other versions listed on her bookshelf. I checked just in case the low review numbers are because of multiple editions, relaunches, or some other reason they would have been pulled from publication causing her to lose reviews. Not the case.
Something I learned from #cockygate is that the only reason to file a trademark is if you believe you have the intention of suing to defend it. If you don’t sue to defend your trademark, it loses its validity. The reason I mention this is because of her low page count and review numbers. If she’d written a series of books that landed her with conference style speaking engagements or national appearances that resulted in a level of recognition where she’d have to worry about people riding her coattails, then yes, the trademark makes sense and would seem very above board. She filed the trademark four years after the initial use date claimed on her filing. That’s fours years of almost no reviews or traffic on your books. Reasoning would suggest that by that point, she was well aware that her books would not be landing her the aforementioned conferences, interviews, recognition, and coattail riders. So why register the trademark and sue?
MY THEORY: We’re all talking about her and her books now, aren’t we???
It was the same thing in the #cockgate case. I mentioned it in my BookMojo post. No one knew who the hell Faleena Hopkins was prior to #cockygate and now she’s infamous and selling books. The heat she took from #Romancelandia for a few months panned out well for her because of the division in the court of public opinion. You had brainy types who possessed eyeballs and higher reasoning and could plainly see that what she was doing was wrong, but there were a lot of those who sided with her (I’m assuming a lack of eyeballs is to blame). Once she realized she had at least some support, she spun the whole situation as the publishing community bullying her, which garnered her more support. She boiled the situation down to a mob coming for her over something she had the legal right to do. Well, she was right. Anyone can file a trademark. It doesn’t mean it will hold up when challenged. And her shit was ultimately shot down.
MY THOUGHTS: It could be argued that it looks like maybe she registered the trademark with the sole intention of coming at Tawdra Kandle, a well-established romance author. I only say that because she’s not coming at Wikipedia for having a career soldier page that isn’t about her or her books, or the Free Dictionary, or the makers of the 1960 short film, or the makers of the Street Fighter card game, or any of the people using the hashtag on social media. By challenging Tawdra’s series as trademark infringement, she just made herself famous in the book world.
We’ll all have to sit back and see how this one ends. I think it’s pretty cut and dry but I am a layman. I know very little about trademark law and I think the sticking point will be the “non-fiction” note on the trademark filing. I don’t know if that means that her trademark is only good when applied to nonfiction or if that’s just documenting where it was first used. When you look at the filing, I think it could be interpreted either way. We’re going to have to wait for someone with way more knowledge about trademarks to do a video.
Speaking of, back when #cockygate happened, there was an author who was doing great videos explaining how trademark law works. If I remember correctly, she was a paralegal in her day job so the information was based on her osmosis understanding of the law and not a law degree. However, she was up front about that fact and was able to explain things in a way that was easy to follow. I have a passion project I want to someday launch that involves an online magazine for the bookworld. The idea Publishers Weekly if it wasn’t all polite conversation. I want to have authors talking about the things that really affect us on a daily basis, such as this trademark situation. But it would also be a place where authors, industry professionals, and book bloggers could all advertise. Advertisement would be free at first while we build the readership and then eventually charging a fee so we could begin paying the contributing authors. I want something where writers get paid to be featured in it instead of just being thankful for the good exposure. Here’s a look at the rough cover mock up:
So #cockygate was happening while I was trying to plan out this first issue to see how it would all work. It was already up to more than forty pages, there were great articles, interviews, an exclusive excerpt, a bunch of ads for new books, ads for service providers, and so much more. I had a four page layout blocked out for a writer to come in and comment on the #cockygate situation (their article plus several info graphics and a section for the writer’s bio and social media links). I, like just about every writer out there, was monitoring the situation closely because being able to trademark a common use word put us all at real legal risk. I reached out to the paralegal-turned-writer via Facebook message. I explained what the publication was and asked if she wanted to write a piece about the subject and in exchange, we would advertise her latest book as a full-page ad.
Her response was to laugh react the message. Not a single word. Just a laugh reaction. Oddly enough, I remember how she reacted to the message but not her name. (insert laugh reaction here)