There are places you can find very detailed explanations of what has occurred. I’ll post a few links but the short version of the *primary* issue is that a romance author, Faleena Hopkins, has been granted a trademark for the word “Cocky” and has been going after indie authors with books with “Cocky” in their title, threatening them with lawsuits and having Amazon remove their books from sales listings. Here are two articles with a more detailed summary: Inquisitr and National Post. If you really have a lot of time and want an eyeful, just browse the hashtag #cockygate and #byefaleena on Twitter!
It’s assumed that the Patent & Trademark Office erroneously granted this trademark for a single word that is in common use, and was used by many books for many years prior to this TM which was granted April 27, 2018.
In interests of keeping this simple, I’m going to try to keep this to the most pertinent points, actions being taken, and updates, as I run across them:
May 25th. In an incredible, unbelievable twist… Faleena Hopkins is suing Kevin Kneupper, Tara Crescent and Jennifer Watson, and has filed a temporary restraining order against Kevin Kneupper’s Petition of Cancellation.
You can read the full Complaint here.
- Retired intellectual property lawyer author, Kevin Kneupper has emerged from retirement to take on the #Cockygate issue. Kevin, at his own expense, has filed a Petition of Cancellation with the Patent & Trade Office to rescind the “Cocky” trademark on the basis of Fraud on PTO. (The cost just to file the petition was $800)
- What happens next? Kevin has filed a Petition of Cancellation with the Patent & Trademark Office. They will send both Kevin and Faleena Hopkins an “institution document” (that initiates the action) and she will have 30 days to respond. So for now… we wait.
- May 14th. Kevin received the Notice of Institution today, and has posted scans of this document and pinned it to his Twitter page, @kneupperwriter. According to this, Faleena has until June 23rd to file a response.
- Kevin has also summarized the situation in some depth in this PodCast interview by Paul Sating of HorribleWriting. I highly recommend listening as, among other things, Kevin lays out the financial impact of defending oneself against a trademark lawsuit… even if you’re right. We’re talking *thousands* of dollars… like… tens to hundreds of thousands. He states as an example that if he was doing this for a client, the billable amount for his time just to research and write the petition above would have been about $10,000. He also explains how the petition process works in detail, as well as the timeline involved. There’s more info about the PodCast and more on Paul’s website.
- I’ve transcribed this interview, and posted it on my blog here if you want to read it rather than listen!
- An important fact: Faleena has targeted Tara Crescent’s series entitled “The Cocky Series” which she had also trademarked; however, Tara’s series existed before Faleena filed for the trademark, and before Faleena used that series name. Significantly, Faleena’s series was originally named “The Cocker Brothers” and she changed it to “The Cocky Series” after having filed for the trademark. She then proceeded to target Tara’s books for removal on Amazon (Amazon has since restored these for sale).
- May 9: Kevin Kneupper has contacted intellectual property lawyers Lauren Emerson, an attorney from the top-notch New York intellectual property firm @LeasonEllis, and her colleague, Cameron Reuber, a top trial lawyer and litigator. They have offered to work on the legal challenge to the “cocky” trademark pro bono. You can follow Kevin on Twitter at @kneupperwriter for updates.
- May 6: Romance Writers of America has stated that they are contacting an intellectual property lawyer.
- RWA asks that all authors who have received a Cease & Desist from Faleena Hopkins to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- RWA also contacted Amazon about their removal of books with “Cocky” in the title. On May 9th, Amazon responded that they have restored the books with the title “Cocky” that it had pulled, and will not remove any more until the matter is resolved.
- There is a Petition to the PTO to rescind the TM for the single word “Cocky” at MoveOn.org. As of this writing, 10 pm May 10th, the petition has over 25,300 signatures. Please sign this! This apparently has no legal effect on the issue, but it DOES let the PTO know our opinion and that there are thousands of us out there watching!
- The creator of the font used for the “Cocky” logo, has stated that his fonts are specifically not permitted to be used in trademarks or TM logos, and that he did not give such permission to anyone. He was contacted, and replied that he is on vacation with limited Internet access, and will be addressing this when he returns.
- May 19, Sam Parrett of Set Sail Studios, the font’s creator, has issued a statement you can read here. He will not be pursuing Faleena legally because of the cost involved, but in all other ways he stands behind us!
- May 22. Marisa Corvisiero of the Corvisiero Literary Agency has filed for a trademark (you can view it here) of the single, common-use word “forever” on behalf of their client, Heidi McLaughlin.
- May 23rd afternoon: Heidi has stated in her FB post that the application was a result of miscommunication and is in the process of being withdrawn. In the evening, Marisa shared a screenshot of the application withdrawal receipt by PTO. Despite all the many, many questions raised… this is OVER. Done. Let’s move on.
- May 10: Just in from Kevin Kneupper: A trademark application on “Rebellion” now before the Patent & Trademark Office that covers all forms of entertainment including books video games etc. Just published for opposition and in the danger zone. But not issued yet! A challenge to the trademark is being filed.
- UPDATE: May 11, Kingsley Brothers have said they will modify their trademark to be appropriate in its scope. Great news!!
- May 11: “LitRPG, short for Literary Role Playing Game, is a literary genre combining the conventions of MMORPGs with science-fiction fantasy novels” according to Wikipedia. This has been long established, but the term LitRPG was coined in 2013. Be that as it may, Aleron Kong has decided he is the “father of LitRPG” and has applied for a trademark of the word LitRPG for his own exclusive use! Kevin Kneupper has said that any authors writing in this genre should contact Agile Law on Twitter, who has just announced they have found a lawyer to file a petition against this trademark application pro bono! Here is a summation of the situation.