You can’t get a federal trademark registration for the title of a single book, or for any other “single creative work”, like songs, movies, and works of art.  The technical reason is that a single title can’t function as a trademark because it’s inherently not a source identifier.  It identifies the work itself, and not the place from which it came.  If you’re fortunate enough to write a book or film that’s successful enough to mature into a series, then federal registration is available for the series.  (There are no extant federal registered trademarks for “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, but there are plenty of “Indiana Jones” derivatives.) 

You can’t really know, at the outset, whether your book is going to achieve the success of (for example) The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (US Reg. No. 3561114), so is there anything that you can do for trademark protection to act as a substitute before your title achieves the wild success as a series that will then enable protection of the mark for books, films, or music?  There is.

The trick is to create an inexpensive good that complements the creative work.  Figure out something that people who enjoy your book might want to have in addition to your book, and that marketers would certainly want to use to promote your book.  Then sell those goods on your website.  Is it a tote bag?  Bookmarks?  Calendars?  Any of those is possible, but my personal favorites are caps and tee shirts.

Caps and tee shirts are great for several reasons.  First, they’re easy to make.  Hundreds of web-based companies will gladly make them for you, and they’re inexpensive, especially considering that your goal here isn’t to make a fortune, but simply to establish a toehold.  Take advantage of their design services and templates, if you’d like.  I’ve used and Second, they’re easy to sell.  Tag the goods properly so that they’re acceptable as specimens, and sell them on the single-purpose website created for the book.  Your friends will buy a few.  Third, it happens fast.  You can buy a domain name and set up a website with or in a few minutes, with effective linked ecommerce.  Vendors will get your shirts and caps to you in a week or less.  With those simple steps, you’re ready to apply for a registered trademark based on actual use in commerce.  And be sure to make it easy to buy the book on that website!

If your book is a best seller, those original tees are going to be conversation starters.  If not, you’ve got a box full of rags to keep in the garage.  Either way, you’re ahead.

Give me a call if you’d like my help in registering a trademark, in responding to a trademark examiner, or in enforcing or defending your trademark rights. 


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