Jane Friedman Post…
I have gotten numbers of questions about this post. Basically what happened is that Jane Freedman, one of the great traditional publishing apologists in her Hot Sheet, had some of her own books up indie on Amazon and someone copied her name and the titles of the books and did some poor AI books and put them up for sale.
The books were put up under another account, so any sales would go to the other account. Jane wrote Amazon and asked them to be taken down.
Amazon wrote back and asked if her name was a licensed trademark. Jane said her name was not trademarked under the Lanham Act, so Amazon declined to take the AI crap books down. Jane eventually got the books taken down in other ways. And, of course, other bookstores had no issue taking them down at once. Just Amazon asked that question.
And now every beginning writer is panicked. As expected.
Now Jane has been around making money with her name for a very long time. Her name is an okay mark in trademark standards, not great, but when associated with publishing and fiction, at least moderately distinctive. And she was doing business under that name far, far longer than the scammer. She wins.
Now I am not a lawyer and would never think of giving legal advice here. And I do know of a lot of big-name authors who have trademarked their names. But for beginning writers, just starting to do business under your name, I personally see no reason to get a trademark.
Trademark in general consists of how long you have been doing business, what area of trademarks you are doing business, and how strong the mark is you are doing business under. (not legal advice, just my understanding)
Trademark to my layman’s understanding for writers is designed for a number of reasons. To protect long-term businesses from such things as Jane went through (even though she still won), to give notice to others who think the name they just thought up is original, and to make lawyers a shit-load of money. (Mostly the latter.)
So my layman’s advice to beginning writers is to not worry about trademarking your name. You have nothing to take yet. You have no business that is worth protecting yet. Longer term-professionals, go get a lawyer (a good one who specializes in IP) and ask their advice. Most lawyers will say don’t bother until a problem comes up, some hungry for money will take your money and trademark your name under the Lanham act.
And that is when your real problems begin because there is a ton of requirements you must follow to keep that trademark active once you register it. And more money to be paid out regularly. And god help you if you miss a renewal.
None of this is legal advice. If you are so afraid that someone will take your precious business name, then by all means go ahead and spend the money and get a trademark on your business name. But first understand copyright law.
And second, remember that with trademark, first into business in a certain area with a regular business income, wins against someone coming later and trying to use the same mark. Even if you are not yet registered with that mark.
But talk to an IP attorney if this is keeping you up at nights because everything I said here is general and not legal advice. Just my opinion. Including the talking to a lawyer part.
(Warning to lawyers coming here to comment or take me to task… Please do not lecture like this is a second year law class. Keep comments general. Many in this audience are learning and just starting off. Thanks!)