Imagine that you have slaved over your manuscript and just when your children’s book is ready for launch, another book with an identical name appears in the market. You would be right to be upset but unless your title is really unique or distinctive, you have little protection against this practice.
Book titles are not protected under copyright law. Because book titles are deemed too short to have adequate “original expression.” So if you have a title that contains – dragon, fire, lord, lost, heart, shadow, world, betrayed, love ……. there’s little hope for getting protection for your title. A search on Amazon shows at least 25 books with the title “Betrayed”!
But while copyright does not, Trademark Law does provide for some protection for book titles. But even so, your book must meet with certain criteria for trademark protection. This law does not provide blanket protection to all book titles.
(For differences between copyright and trademark law check this link: http://www.legalzoom.com/trademarks-faq/trademark-versus-copyright-protection.html)
To get a Trademark, your book title needs to contain the following Trademark Elements:
- Unique, made-up words. (Freakonomics).
- A book title that is a part of a series like (Wimpy Kid).
- A book title that is a part of a wider business venture (merchandising, public-speaking etc.).
- Names that are associated with wider business ventures (Martha Stewart).
- Book titles with secondary meaning. (The DaVinci Code)
You can apply for trademark registration even before your series or business venture takes off. You may apply for“intent-to-use” (“ITU”) if you have a good faith intention of using the trademark. This ITU application permits the applicant to “reserve” the trademark for up to three years. When the second book of the book series is launched or your book related venture has been launched, you can file a “Statement of Actual Use” to become a legally registered trademark.