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Trademark Protection for Book Titles

By Eric Misterovich

Shifts in technology have revolution the literary publishing industry. What was once an accomplishment of the very few, publishing and distributing a book, is now possible for anyone with the drive to complete it. This causes many people to ask about protecting the intellectual property of their literary work. Two types of protection are important: copyright and trademark.  Authors should take the step of obtaining formal copyright registration. For a discussion on trademark issues, continue reading.

Trademark protection for literary titles of single works is unique in trademark law. Specifically, literary works are given trademark protection only upon a showing of secondary meaning. This is true despite the fact that the title of book is not descriptive of its contents. The title of a single literary work cannot be registered as a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. However, courts will protect unregistered titles from confusingly similar uses under the Lanham Act.

A series of creative works, however, such as the title of a series of books, periodicals, or newspapers, title of a magazine, television series, or related movies, can achieve trademark registration.

In fact, the title of articles within a periodical can achieve registration with the USPTO. Hard copy articles can achieve registration  if they are sold separate from the periodical, or if they have achieved secondary meaning. Article titles and sections on the internet, however, are registered as a service mark because they can exist independent of any publication.

If you are in the process of publishing a book, or series of literary works, contact our trademark law attorneys today for a free consultation on protecting your intellectual property.  


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