Monday, May 7, 2018

The Cockygate Saga

A little-known author named Faleena Hopkins applied for and received 2 trademarks in May 2018 for the word 'cocky'. Her series of books, which she intends to make into a self-published movie in 2018, is about the Cocker Brothers. In April 2018 she retitled her books to reference them as the Cocky series. The first book in the series was published in June 2016 and republished in Sept 2017, after the very popular Cocky Bastard was published by authors Penelope Ward and Vi Keeland was published in August 2015. This is in addition to a lot of other titles which also use the word 'cocky' in the title.

This should be were the story stops, but it doesn't. Faleena has proceeded to send cease and desist letters to any and all authors who use the word cocky in their titles demanding that they stop using the word in any of their titles or she will sue them. She also threatens that she will automatically win all royalties the author has earned on their work and that the author will be forced to pay all legal fees. 

This is what she sent to Jamilla Jasper

Jamilla's book came out in March 2018, prior to the trademark being granted. Authors have responded in different ways to being told they have to retitle and recreate their covers, promotional items, and advertising. This is a very expensive and time-consuming process, as Trout Nation illustrates. Faleena herself points out on Facebook that this process is complicated and time-consuming as she refused to edit her book Cocky Solider when actual Marines pointed out that they are never referred to as soldiers, only as Marines. The reviews for this book also point out that Faleena recreated a scene from the movie Cocktail in this story. 

Some, like Jamilla, have changed their book covers. Others have decided to fight the trademark with a petition and lawyers like Kevin Kneupper are submitting requests to remove the trademark as the word is too widely used in the romance book industry to be trademarked.  The Romance Writer's Association is also investigating the issue and asking anyone who has been threatened by Faleena Hopkins to contact Carol Ritter.

In order to trademark the word cocky, Faleena had to describe the word's visual appearance. This is, in theory, to limit her from doing exactly what she is. As long as the word is not used in the specific color, font or style of the trademark then it should be fine. The specific font she used appears to be from a website called Creative Market and was created by Set Sail Fonts. The terms of use for the font from Creative Market explicitly state that the font cannot be trademarked. 

None of this is deterring Faleena who is also threatening to sue anyone who uses the same character names or a similar plot as any of her books. The plot of Faleena's story is about an alpha male with stalker tendencies and a woman who is pretending that motorcycles don't make her horny. The book which Faleena claims is a copy of hers is about a bodyguard who falls in love with a woman in hiding from the mafia. I really don't see the similarities. Additionally, both of these are popular plot lines in the romance fiction world. 

Faleena claims that she is doing this because other authors who use the word 'cocky' in their book titles are confusing her reader's. Since her books came out months, if not years after the majority of the other books which bear the same word in the title then I'm not sure how this is a problem. Trademarks are not retroactive and if the other work came first that it certainly wasn't done with the purpose of infringing or confusing her reader's. It also takes 2 minutes or less to look at the author name to ensure that a person is purchasing a book from the author they intended. 

The best thing to come of Faleena's stunt is that authors from all genres have come together to support each other and to fight a practice that will only harm the publishing and writing communities as a whole. In an industry that is known for its cutthroat practices and high rejection rates, the community will protect their own.