Does Your Book Need a Trademark?

A trademark or service mark is a way to establish that you own a brand.  Trademarks can be a phrase, logo, words, name or any combination that identifies you as the owner of some goods or merchandise, such as NIKE®shoes.  A service mark registers the provision of a service, such as a coaching process.  People often use the term trademark and service mark interchangeably so to keep things clear, in this article, we’ll use ‘trademark ‘to cover both trade and service marks.

Trademarks are registered by the government in a somewhat lengthy process.  Since I am not an attorney and cannot provide legal advice, let me give you some educational information so that you can make your own decisions about whether or not to register a trademark for your business.

The first important thing to know is that book titles may not be registered as a trademark.  A Copyright protects works of art, music, and writing that you produce as an author. Books are registered in the Copyright office, but not given a trademark.

While you cannot register a trademark for your title, you can register a trademark for a signature process you teach, your business name and logo, or a phrase you use in your branding.

Here’s an example to make this clearer: I own several trademarks including Successful Author Secrets® as an educational program so no one else can legally use that phrase for a workshop, recording, or other educational materials.  If I were to write a book titled Successful Author Secrets, I would own the copyright to that particular book manuscript, but someone else could write a book with the same title if they wished.

For example, if you create a process called the ‘Polka Dot System’, you may wish to register a trademark for that phrase.  You could use that trademark anywhere you discuss the Polka Dot System such as in a teleclass, audio program, or home study course.  No one else would be able to use that phrase for their own signature system. If you were to write a book, you may refer to your Polka Dot system in your book and use the trademark symbol behind the phrase to signify that you are the owner of that system.

You can use the government trademark website in your county to learn more about trademarks and conduct a simple search to see if a particular phrase is already under trademark registration.  In the United States, go to http://www.uspto.gov.

Many authors never register trademarks.  Your manuscript will be protected by copyright law which is adequate protection for most authors.  However, if you have a phrase, logo, or process which you feel needs protection under trademark law, do some research to learn more about the rules of your country.  Then discuss your options with a qualified attorney to ensure that registration process goes smoothly and according to regulation.

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