This month, I was “treated” to a dynamic workshop by Colorado IP attorney Julie Bernard. Not only did she handle 40 plus questions during the morning—her position was If you have a question—any question … you will get an answer was the motto for the morning. And boy, were there a book load of them.
The tsunami started with a statement Julie made about Kleenex® and Xerox® as examples—both long-standing trademarks of major corporations whose names had moved into common usage. It became common that any type of tissue was called a Kleenex and any copying was “I’m going to Xerox it”—Xerox become a verb. Everyone was using them in writing without permission—they didn’t know that they needed it. Both companies fought back to reclaim their names and their trademarks. Now, you have got to get permission in most cases to use them in citings … or instead, write “tissues” and “copying”.
The safety net is in the “fair usage” arena and when you are saying/writing something positive. As in Kleenex makes the best tissue that money can buy. The good folks at Kimberly-Clark, maker of Kleenex, will not get upset and send you one of those nastygrams: a cease and desist letter.
Also note, that when I wrote Kleenex and Xerox the first time, I inserted the registered trademark symbol ® and did not when I repeated it. This is the acceptable way to identify a registered trademark in your writing—once is enough. Otherwise, in reading—it becomes ugly to the eye.
Then Julie mentioned Marvel Comics and how aggressive the company has become in the use and misuse of its products, characters, descriptions, and names. Oops, the word “superhero” slipped out.
And that’s when the door opened widely when an attendee and one of my clients asked about the use of it in her book. She had “superhero” in front of her main character’s name. Something we all quickly learned was a NO-NO without written permission and maybe payment to Marvel Comics and/or DC Comics. Not multi-tasking for a change, I realized I also had another client using the “superhero” in his book about his granddaughter. Within minutes, an email was sent to him that a change needed to be made.
What to Do …
1. When you are creating names or putting what you think is a common word as a descriptor in front of it, do a quick Google search with the Name followed by Trademark status and see what pops up.
2. If there is a statement that the word is trademarked, don’t use it. (put the ed on trademark)
3. Use a website like Knowem.com and see if there is a trademark identified with it here.
4. Go to the USPTO website and do a search of its database here.
5. If you are in doubt, connect to an IP attorney pronto—not a business, your estate planning or friend or practices law. An Intellectual Property Attorney. No exceptions here. I use Julie Bernard. Her email is Julie@BernardIPLaw.com.
And here’s a PS … I applied for the trademarks of both AuthorU and The Book Shepherd and got them. This means that others shouldn’t be using them without my permission. Are they? Yes … I see a cease and desist letter in the workings.
If you have a phrase or a description that is unique to you … think about protecting it. If it’s catchy or something that people remember easy and others start to use—maybe you may want to tell them to knock it off. After all, it’s part of your business personal and intellectual property.
You are welcome.
Judith Briles is a book publishing expert and coach. She empowers authors and is the Founder of AuthorU.org, a membership organization created for the serious author who wants to be seriously successful. She’s been writing about and conducting workshops on publishing since the ’80s. Judith is the author of 35 books including Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book Platforms (Foreword IndieFab Book of the Year), Snappy Sassy Salty: Wise Words for Authors and Writers and a speaker at publishing conferences. Book #35 was published in 2016: How to Avoid 101 Book Publishing Blunders, Bloopers & Boo-Boos. Get your copy now.
Each summer, she holds Judith Briles Book Publishing Unplugged, a three-day intensive limited to a small group of authors who want to be seriously successful. In 2017, the dates are June 22-24th. Her audio and workbook series, Creating Your Book and Author Platform is now available. Join Judith live on Thursdays at 6 p.m. EST for “AuthorU-Your Guide to Book Publishing” on the Toginet Network at bit.ly/PublishingShow.
Follow @AuthorU and @MyBookShepherd on Twitter and do a “Like” at AuthorU, and join the Facebook group Book Publishing with The Book Shepherd. If you want to create a book that has no regrets, contact Judith at Judith@Briles.com.
Author U is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the author who wants to be seriously successful. Monthly education programs delivered face-to-face and online, The Author Resource ezine, BookCamps, and the annual Author U Extravaganza are tools designed for authors pre-, during and post-publishing of their books. Join AuthorU.org today.
If you are looking for FREE author and book coaching … call in to Judith’s Author Monday Mornings at NOON Eastern each Monday if you are an AuthorU.org GOLD member.
You are welcome.