Author Tries To Trademark The Word 'Dark' For All Of Literary Fiction

from the um-no dept

For whatever reason, while we see a ton of instances of someone trying to trademark a word or phrase that is absolutely generic and not a source identifier, often it seems some of the most ridiculous instances come from the literary world. Why authors have such a hard time with this is perhaps not entirely mysterious. Steeped in an industry with a tradition of strong views on copyright protections, I suppose it’s a short leap that those in that industry would assume trademark works the same way. After all, journalists make this mistake all the time, so why not authors?

Still, witnessing my book-writing brethren make a run at trademarking words like “how” or “cocky” is more than slightly frustrating. And now we can add the word “dark” to the mix, as author Christine Feehan has applied for a trademark on that word for use in books and fiction.

Christine Feehan is the author of several bestselling series, including one simply called “Dark” — in her trademark application with the USPTO, she has applied for the exclusive right to use the word “Dark” (in “standard characters without claim to any particular font style, size, or color”) in “Series of fiction works, namely, novels and books.”

Literally thousands of books have the word “dark” in their titles, including several series such as Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and Stephen King’s Dark Tower books.

Yeah, they literally do. And not just books, either. Hell, His Dark Materials has an HBO adaptation showing right now (and it’s great). The idea of locking up a generic single word such as “dark” for all of fictional literature is one of those things that should obviously not be allowed to occur. But for the legal argument as to why this isn’t a thing is because a word like “dark” very obviously doesn’t denote the source of a good. For one, it isn’t unique. For two, the word is and has been used in literature since roughly the time that man created literature.

Now, before we all start wringing our hands here, it’s nearly certain that this trademark will never be approved.

Feehan’s application has not yet been assigned to an examiner. It was filed on her behalf by Greg Mavronicolas, a New York based attorney from the Mavronicolas Law Group PLLC.

Dark days are most likely ahead for Feehan, as this is one application that should be tossed in the trash.

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Comments on “Author Tries To Trademark The Word 'Dark' For All Of Literary Fiction”

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charliebrown (profile) says:

Let There Be Light

Maybe she’s hoping to make more authors who do light-hearted books?

It is a dark soul who thinks they can own a word like this.

Maybe she can write a sequel to "Dark", call it "Light" and sell those books together in one big tome called "Twilight" and see how far she gets.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
DB (profile) says:

We should be awed that Greg Mavronicolas is involved in this trademark filing.
He is on the 2018 ‘New York Metro Super Lawyers Rising Stars’ list.

The last time I heard about the Super Lawyer list was one of the Prenda appeals, where one of the judge noted that the lawyer was "Super", and clearly gave him the respect that designation deserved.

Greg appears to be remarkably talented, as he specializes in everything. That ranges from commercial real estate transactions to FTC compliance, including commercial litigation and international arbitration. Unlike those large stodgy firms that limit themselves to narrower areas of expertise, he apparently knows everything.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

"Christine Feehan is the author of several bestselling series, including one simply called "Dark""

Good for you, Christine. Now, where did you come up with that word? Did you perhaps read it somewhere?

"Yeah, they literally do. And not just books, either."

Even taking the word in isolation, it’s not an original concept. James Herbert’s The Dark was one of the first books that came to mind, while I watched a TV series on Netflix a while ago called simply "Dark".

Anonymous Coward says:

IF random trolls can trademark simple common words for fiction then We will be truly be in the dark ages ruled by trolls and idiots .you have free speech as long as you do not use the words dark or another 1000 words owned by a random trademark troll .
We have already seen small startups attacked by software patent trolls
over broad basic concepts in common use .
if he gets this trademark he could sue wb or the publisher for any new issues of the dark knight comicbook .
its a ridiculous attempt to own a simple common word used by 100,s of authors already.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

It seems Christine 1) Didn’t know much about trademark law, 2) Has been heavily smitten by the righteous hand of social media and now 3) Claims she’s "already asked my trademark lawyer to withdraw all of the current single word applications that have been filed and that are causing so much distress. I don’t know how long this will take for it to fully process the requests but I have been working on it. I want to clarify again that I have absolutely NO intention of trying to prohibit other authors from using those words in their titles or part of their series names. That was NEVER my intention. By filing for trademarks, my intention was only to secure my ability to use the series titles in future projects for my own readers’ clarity, not to go after other authors or limit their expression. I am very sorry for any stress this situation may have caused to authors with those same words in their title or series who have been concerned that I would go after them unfairly. I support and appreciate my fellow authors, many of them who sport Dark in their titles and series names and many who I call my very dear friends."

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"I have absolutely NO intention of trying to prohibit other authors from using those words"

Someone should explain to her that the ONLY purpose of a trademark is to prevent others from using it in certain ways.

"By filing for trademarks, my intention was only to secure my ability to use the series titles in future projects"

I’d love to hear her explanation as to what was stopping her from doing that without the trademark.

Sheila_an_Author says:


First of all, did anyone here research her claim or just jump on the bandwagon of hate?
You can trademark a single word. Twilight. Goosebumps. It’s context that people seem to be missing here.
Her attorney has a great reputation. Perhaps he could’ve learned a bit more about current affairs in fiction writing (Cockygate) and addressed this in a way that layman might understand (add the categories for movie and graphic novel as well so it didn’t look so suspicious to people who don’t understand).
The author already withdrew the single word trademarks. It’s done. They’re dead. She wasn’t trying to be greedy. She wasn’t stupid. She took the advice of a well respected attorney who is a specialist in this field. Like most would.
Right or wrong, she took down the trademarks because she never meant to hurt anyone or frustrate them or make people worry. She has a 30 year reputation in the industry of helping other authors. She has NEVER had any blemish on her reputation. Quite the opposite.
Since this is a tech site let me give an example that might help.
How many of you realize there are people out there who buy up domain names? They buy up simple words, combination of words, they troll trademarks to buy up domain names that way. Then they sell those for lots of money.
You can’t do that with a trademark BTW.
But, don’t you think that if it were at all possible to trademark a word and hold it hostage from the English language and all fiction writing before this ever happened, we’d all be aware of people buying up words? IF it could be done and money made off it, every word in the English language would cost you money to use. But, it doesn’t. Because, you can’t.
There was never going to be a conflict with "The Dark Knight" or "The Dark Tower" it doesn’t work that way.
This lady might be guilty of not foreseeing this after all the Cockygate stuff, but she wasn’t guilty of trying to steal a word. That’s ridiculous. And as soon as she realized how it appeared to people she took it down. Could she have fought it and been ugly? Yes. But, she apologized to anyone she upset and removed it. That’s a lot more class than most people commenting about have.
This whole thing made the industry look bad. That’s sad.
It showed that hate culture is alive and well. And that "flash mob" is Twitter’s second name.
She should’ve been more careful. But at least she wasn’t cruel, snide or mean.
And now I’ll wait for you all to hate on me. Because that seems to be what we’ve all come to.

Sheila_an_Author (profile) says:

Re: Re: Ridiculous

You can.
And sometimes you should. It’s according, again, to context.
To secure your series for comics and graphic novels or movies it’s expected that you’ll trademark the series. This is standard which is why you have words like Twilight and Goosebumps trademarked.
Trademark has to do with branding and with consumer confusion. It isn’t about "owning" a word.
The Dark Series has been around since the 1990’s and is well established (34 novels). The problem wasn’t the trademark, which still had a chance of being approved. The problem was the perception when the attorney only used the word "Dark" and not "The Dark Series".
People were trying to get Stephen King to chime in on this, but he didn’t. Neither did Nora Robers or other notable authors with the word "Dark" in their titles or series. They didn’t need to because the potential trademark wouldn’t actually infringe on their works. Why should they pay legal fees for a fight that’s not happening?
Being angry or fearful isn’t the problem. To me, the problem is thinking your feelings validate your opinion or justify the level of cruelty I witnessed over this issue.
This isn’t a trademark problem. It’s a society problem.
I just wish people had more compassion. I get not having the time or energy to go out and research complicated trademark issues. But, making things up, perpetuating incorrect information, calling names, sending threats, and generally being mean isn’t a reflection of what she deserves, it’s a reflection of what’s inside of the person doing it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Ridiculous

When I was a kid and made a selfish stupid decision, especially in cases which insinuated I had control over other people’s property which I did not have, I got punished. Why the fuck do adults get a free pass? What is it about intellectual property that turns all your brains into tepid tapioca pudding and make you demand for money, then backpedal like mad and give pathetic "it was just a prank bro!"-level responses when you inevitably get backlash?

We’re sick and tired of intellectual property’s advocates wielding it like a nuke. That you have to come to a site to concern troll is telling.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Ridiculous

For the record, any titles containing the word “Dark” would legally infringe on that trademark. Whether or not the author would enforce it that way is another topic altogether.

As for threats, that would be wrong, period, regardless of the merits of her trademark. However, sadly, it is also expected from anything on the internet. I don’t think there is anything particularly unusual about the author receiving threats over this, even if I think that that’s wrongful. That is a societal issue that has no bearing on this topic.

I don’t think anyone was completely making things up; they were perfectly reasonable interpretations of trademark law and the author’s actions, not to mention the litigious history of many such one-word trademarks. Just look at “edge”. As for “perpetuating incorrect information”, it depends on context.

Namecalling and being mean are just part of criticism and social repercussions. I have no problem with that per se.

To say it’s not a trademark problem is ignoring the fact that people have enforced trademark beyond what is reasonable or even set out under the law.

I’m not convinced that the word “Dark” should’ve been trademarked for the series. It wasn’t a good idea, and I don’t see what benefit she could’ve gotten from the trademark if it was enforced as you say it would be. Just because it’s “standard” for the name of a series to be trademarked doesn’t mean that doing so is proper or a good idea. You’re right that it’s about branding and customer confusion, but I’m not convinced that either of those things would be improved by trademarking the word “Dark” outside of a specific logo or font.

Sheila_the_Author says:

Dear “Anonymous Coward” your level of animosity makes me want to offer you a hug a pat on the back and a “bless your heart”.
Do you want people flogged? Their livelihoods taken away? What do you think is an appropriate punishment for a perceived misstep? Because this author NEVER threatened a soul. Or intended to.
If you make apologies meaningless, then why ask for them in the first place?
At some point, someone needs to offer some kindness and forgiveness. I see that’s not your thing, but how would the world change if that was our reaction by nature instead of hate?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Ah, the good old "saying sorry means I’m free of whatever punishment, penalty or restitution I need to undertake because I made a silly decision that had a chance of ruining someone else" excuse. Because that obviously didn’t get old after all the dead grandmothers and children the RIAA sued.

If forgiveness instead of hate was the default setting for you lot, IP enforcement as we know it wouldn’t exist.

Sheila_an_Author (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

What punishment, penalty or restitution should be given to someone whose only mistake was the way her attorney presented the trademark application and how that was perceived? She didn’t break any laws. She didn’t harm any person or company. No one was hurt. Right away she corrected what was upsetting people and apologized for upsetting them.
Other than that, what do you feel is fair?
Wanting to hurt someone just because you’re mad doesn’t mean they deserve that.
"I made a silly decision that had a chance of ruining someone else" is absolutely incorrect. You are wrong. That was never going to happen. It couldn’t. That’s not how trademark works. People jumped to conclusions and this author is paying the price.
Forgiveness should always be the default before hate.

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