A strange fight is brewing in the world of romance novels over the word "cocky." Faleena Hopkins is the author of a 17-book series about the Cocker brothers, and all of those books have the word "cocky" in the title. Last month, Hopkins managed to trademark use of the word, reports the National Post and the Guardian. Hopkins says readers complained they "lost money" thinking they were buying her books—with titles such as Cocky Cowboy, Cocky Soldier, and Cocky Biker—when they bought other novels with "cocky" in the title. "I'm protecting them and that's what trademarks are meant for," she says. But rival authors disagree. A petition calling for the end of the trademark has some 20,000 signatures, reports the New York Daily News, while author and retired lawyer Kevin Kneupper has filed a separate legal challenge.
It comes after Hopkins sent letters to authors threatening legal action unless they changed their titles. "I have to admit I am intimidated because I don't have many resources to fight this legally," author Jamila Jasper wrote of #CockyGate on Twitter, sharing a copy of a letter she received about her own book by the name of Cocky Cowboy. Noting she wrote a book with the same title 23 years ago, author Yasmine Galenorn says she "can't imagine what the trademark office was thinking." The Romance Writers of America has hired an intellectual property attorney in hope of a resolution, and Chocolat author Joanne Harris sees it going only one way. "If it were really possible to legally forbid authors from using a certain common word in their book titles, then the whole publishing industry would be down the drain in a matter of days," she writes.