Cockygate defeated: judge finds "Cocky" trademark for romance titles unenforceable

You'll recall that self-published romance author Faleena Hopkins undertook the sociopathic step of registering a trademark on the word "Cocky" in the titles of romance novels and then had her rivals' works removed from Amazon, threatening to sue any writer who used the common word in a title in the future.

Hopkins had sought an injunction and restraining order preventing the publication of "Cocktales: The Cocky Collective," a book of short stories written by other writers in protest of Hopkins' trademark trolling; Hopkins also sought to restrain romance writer Tara Crescent (who had written novels whose titles contained "cocky"), publicist Jennifer Watson (who represented "Cocktales"), and lawyer Kevin Kneupper (who had sought to have the trademark on "cocky" re-examined and invalidated.

The defendants were given legal/financial assistance by the Romance Writers of America and the Authors Guild, and prevailed in court when judge Alvin Hellerstein found that the trademark was not enforceable against them, because there would be no marketplace confusion among the "sophisticated purchasers" of romance novels, calling "cocky" a "weak trademark" that could only be enforced against direct, deceptive imitation.

Unless Hopkins wants to throw good money after bad and continue to fight the case on its merits (a potentially very expensive and likely fruitless effort), this is the end of her trademark.

Let's hope that other would-be trademark trolls (like the guy who wants to have the exclusive right to use the word dragon slayer in novel titles) get the message.

In the case, heard in a New York court on Friday, judge Alvin Hellerstein described romance readers as "sophisticated purchasers" unlikely to be confused between different authors' books, found that cocky was a "weak trademark", and denied Hopkins's motion for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order to stop the publication of books with the word "cocky" in the title. Kneupper, who was removed from the case, will be allowed to continue his legal challenge to Hopkin's trademark in relation to the word's use in series titles.

"Authors should be able to express themselves in their choice of titles," said the Authors Guild in a statement after the hearing. "A single word commonly used in book titles cannot be "owned" by one author. This is especially true when, as here, the word has already been in use by other authors in titles for years."

Romance writer's bid to stop authors from using word 'cocky' fails in court
[Alison Flood/The Guardian]