On numerous occasions, potential clients come to me in order to find out how they can protect the title of the book he or she is writing. Can I copyright my book title? Can I trademark my book title? How can I protect the title of my book? With all these questions, my potential client is always asking me the same thing, how can he or she protect their book title to prevent people from stealing it?
The truth is, it is possible to do (with some work) but it is also highly possible you can’t.
Before we get to the essence of the article, I first want to dispel the notion that a copyright would help you in protecting your book title. This is not the function of a copyright. While a copyright, however, will protect the contents of your creation (your book), the title is not necessarily a part of that.
Thus, we are left with trademarks. A trademark may be able to protect your book title, but it is more difficult than you think. And while generally, a trademark typically will not be granted to a book title, there are some exceptions.
Defining the Protections of a Trademark
You can basically define a trademark as your brand. Further defined, it's a legal protection of your intellectual property and distinguishes you from all your competitors and protects consumers from confusing your product or service from others in the market.
The Rules on Trademarking a Book Title
It's not possible to trademark a single book title if you plan to just write one work and not do anything else with it. The main reason is due to a legal ruling that says book titles are descriptive enough where it's already assumed you're the source of the material. While this might sound legal technicality, you're probably right, though it's not necessarily the final word on the subject. Some situations may arise with your book title where you could still get a trademark if you prove your unique case.
Exception: A Distinctive Book Title
For some authors, a book title might become so distinctive, the consuming public will always associate the author with the work. If someone tries to use your title in another media form, you could argue this case and perhaps get trademark protection.
Keep in mind this is for book titles becoming a major part of pop culture and not books known to a small audience. Most likely, this exception will be the most difficult to obtain.
Exception: You Wrote a Book Series
Writing a series of books is more of a brand, and therefore possible to trademark. For example, popular book series’ that may obtain trademark protection are “Harry Potter” and “For Dummies”. These authors would be able to obtain trademark protection for these titles because their works have become a true business enterprise. Anyone who attempts to use those titles elsewhere would immediately face legal repercussions.
Exception: Your Book is Part of Your Brand in Other Ways
If your book has some correlation to another business you own, it's again possible to trademark your title. The exception to this exception is the goods and services connected to your book title can't relate directly to sales of your book.
Yes, this can get complicated, yet it's a solid way to nurture your brand if you happen to publish a book related to a stand-alone business. Not only can your book title expand on getting your brand better known, you can rest easy someone else can't freely use your title anywhere else in the nation.
Getting protection over a book title is not easy. However, there may be other options available that would help you achieve a similar result. Seeking the help of an experienced trademark lawyer would assist you in ensuring you maximize the protection of your intellectual property. Contact us at Cordero Law to learn more about trademarks and how it relates to protecting brands.
Julian Cordero is an Attorney, Music Producer, and Entrepreneur. Oh and he blogs too! Julian is licensed to practice law in New York and is the Managing Member of Cordero Law LLC, a New York ity based law firm focusing on Business Law, Entertainment Law, and Intellectual Property