book From time to time, we receive inquiries from authors about registering book titles as trademarks.  Sounds like a good idea but can it be done?  The short answer is “no,” trademark law does not permit registration of a work’s title.  But, as with many legal rules, there are exceptions.

The complete title of a work may be registered as a trademark if the work’s title is used on at least two different creative works thereby establishing the title as a trademark for a series of works.  Children’s book titles are commonly registered as a series of works.  For example, Two Cool Doods, The Little Green School, Monster Catchers, and many others.  The trademark applicant must exercise care in providing evidence of a series.  If only the format of the work has changed, such as publishing a written and audio version of the work, the applicant will not persuade the trademark examiner that the work is a series. Similarly, the title of an abridged or unabridged version of the work does not establish a series; nor does use of the title on posters, mugs, bags or t-shirts.

An author may also register a portion of a book title as a trademark if he or she can establish that:

  • the portion of the title to be registered must create a separate commercial impression apart from the complete title;
  • the title is used on a series of works; and
  • the title is promoted or recognized as a mark for the series.

The Trademark Office states that the applicant has a heavy burden in establishing that the title is used in a series.  The mere use of the same words in more than one book title is insufficient proof.  Instead, the applicant must establish that the public perceives the title to be a mark for a series.

So, you can see that there are strategies for registering a book title as a trademark but the process is tricky.  If you’ve been thinking about registering a book title, we can help determine the appropriate application strategy.

— Adam G. Garson, Esq.