I really hate to have to blog about #cockygate again. I really do. (You can read my previous post here.) Some of you might wonder why I’m continuing to harp on this topic. Others might think I’m giving Faleena Hopkins exactly what she wants – more publicity. The reason why I’ve decided to blog about this (again!) is because #cockygate is far from over. While Hopkins’ trademark of the single word “cocky” affects just a small group of romance authors, this has set a dangerous precedent. Over the past several days, numerous attempts have been made by other authors to trademark other commonly-used words.
There has been a lot going on, so I’m going to give you a general run down, rather than drone on and on in a long-winded, emotional post.
- On September 12, 2017 Faleena Hopkins (under her company Hop Hop Productions) applies for three trademarks. The first is a stylized version of the word COCKY which uses a specific font. The second is a standard character mark for her series COCKER BROTHERS which is described as “a series of downloadable e-books in the field of romance.” The third trademark is for a standard character mark for the word COCKY which also specifies “a series of books in the field of romance.” The applications are approved on April 17, 2018 and three separate trademarks are granted.
- The standard character mark applies to the word COCKY regardless of font, style, or color, according to the USPTO website. This trademark applies to Hopkins’ romance series and has been interpreted by Faleena Hopkins in such a way that the word COCKY can no longer be used by other romance authors on the titles of their books.
- Hopkins sends out cease and desist letters to authors who use COCKY in the titles of their books. It should be noted that there are multiple books with COCKY in the title or series name that were published long before Hopkins began writing her series.
- Hopkins allegedly sends “take down” notices to Amazon regarding these authors who are supposedly violating the newly obtained trademark. Amazon removes several titles.
- The writing community explodes in outrage and a number of articles pop up all over the internet. (I’ve posted links to some of these below.)
- In response to the public outcry, Hopkins claims it is easy for authors to re-title their books. Numerous authors point out that it can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to re-title a book.
- The hashtag #cockygate and #byefaleena are born.
- An online petition is circulated among authors and readers asking the US Trademark Office to cancel Faleena Hopkins’ wordmark: https://petitions.moveon.org/sign/cancel-faleena-hopkins
- Faleena Hopkins posts a nearly two hour long video on her Facebook page, expressing her side of the story and accusing authors and readers of bullying her. She removes the video and her Facebook page the following day. (You can watch the video here: https://vimeo.com/268819260)
- The RWA gets involved and asks Amazon to temporarily halt the removal of authors’ books until the matter can be resolved. Amazon agrees.
- An author and retired attorney Kevin Kneupper files a Petition for Cancellation with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board which you can read HERE.
- As of today, the status of the trademark for the COCKY standard character mark shows this message on the US Trademark website: “This trademark application has been registered with the Office, but it is currently undergoing a challenge which may result in its removal from the registry.” You can click HERE to be directed to the site.
- Authors begin to write satirical stories in protest of Faleena Hopkins’ claim. COCKTALES is published on Amazon by a group of authors in an attempt to “raise funds to fight against obstruction of creative expression.”
- Over the past couple of weeks, it has been reported that other trademark requests have been filed for commonly-used words and phrases including “forever,” “shifter world,” and “biker,” among others.
- On May 25, 2018 Hopkins files a legal complaint against Kevin Kneupper and two other authors. She also files a restraining order against them. (Click HERE to read the full legal complaint. Click HERE to read the restraining order.)
- In a Facebook group post, Hopkins writes her side of the story which you can read in this screen shot on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TymberDalton/status/1000510423299448832
- It has been reported that Faleena Hopkins did not have the rights to apply for one of the trademarks she has obtained. The terms and conditions for the font used in the stylized form of COCKY states that users are not allowed to use the font in a trademark. The creator of the font sent a cease and desist letter to Faleena Hopkins, according to this Tweet posted earlier today: https://twitter.com/SetSailStudios/status/1000488124395479041
- UPDATE: On 5/31, Faleena Hopkins posts on her blog, explaining the situation from her point of view: https://faleenahopkins.blogspot.com/2018/05/romance-author-faleena-hopkins-on.html
- UPDATE: On 5/31, Defendants Kevin Kneupper, Tara Crescent and Jennifer Watson file a joint opposition to Faleena Hopkins’ (plaintiff) order to show cause for a preliminary injunction and restraining order which you can read HERE in it’s entirety.
- UPDATE: On 6/1/18, a judge rules against Hopkins’ request for a temporary restraining order against the defendants. In regards to Kneupper’s petition to cancel the trademark, the judge states that it is not his jurisdiction; therefore, Kneupper is “out of the case.” The final issue is whether or not the defendants have infringed upon the trademark, and if so, if the plaintiff incurred damages. The judge continues the case to September 7th. You can read the full transcript of the proceeding here: http://www.courtneymilan.com/cockydocs/I61RHOPM.pdf
Below is a list of articles and videos by several respected indie and traditional authors. If you’re looking for in depth analysis, or more comprehensive information about #cockygate, these articles and videos will get you up to speed:
- The Guardian: Romantic Novelist’s trademarking of word ‘cocky’ sparks outcry
- Writer Beware: Trademark Shenanigans: Weighing in on #cockygate
- Rami Ungar the Writer: Why You Can’t Copyright an Often-Used Word in Book Titles
- The Passive Voice: Trademark Cock-up
- Maegan Provan: Excuses, Whiskey, and Pending Cancellation Review: An Update on #Cockygate
- A Response to Faleena Hopkins by Maegan Provan
- #COCKYGATE, TAKE TWO: THIS TIME IT’S JUDICIAL (UPDATED
- Cockygate explained (Vox)
I will try to add to this post as the situation develops. If anyone has anything new to add, or if you see anything I should update or correct, please let me know.