Love stories have a plethora of villainous archetypes standing in the way of their heroines' happiness. There are strict Victorian parents, evil scheming love rivals, DJ Khaled -- the list goes on. But it seems that a 21st-century nemesis is now laying siege to the bodice-ripping world of romance literature: real-life trademark trolls.
A hard and firm rule in the romance literary industry is to hungrily force as many sex-related puns into your work as can possibly fit onto your velvety pages. A stolen glance at the Amazon romance bestseller list will reveal many titles with "hard," "hot," "dirty," or "quiver" in them, to name a few. Currently, one of the double entendres du jour is the word "cocky," both a reference to the often brash and rakish nature of male love interests and romance buffs' favorite dog breed, the cocker spaniel.
Penelope Ward / Vi Keeland
One lover of being cocky is Faleena Hopkins, a romance author best known for her ongoing series The Cocker Brothers Of Atlanta -- though not going with The Cocker Brothers Of Cockermouth, UK seems like a real missed opportunity. Each work in the series of course has "cocky" in its title, and since she's already at novella number 17 after only two years, Hopkins now believes she should straight up own the word "cocky," which has so many layers of irony to it that you could chip a pickax.
However, when news spread of Hopkins' very dubious trademark, the literary world immediately called her out for what she was really doing: trademark trolling. Authors often trademark their works to protect their assets, but they trademark their own creations, not the very concept of human language, and it's obvious why Hopkins has chosen the latter. Instead of using her trademark to ward off (nonexistent) copycats, the author's now sending threatening letters to every other romance novelist with "cocky" on their book covers, telling them to either change the title or prepare to be roughly taken to court.
Of course, Hopkins can't own a word. What she actually has is a trademark on the use of "cocky" in the specific style and font that's displayed on her book covers -- like it's a logo for a very bold brand of personal hygiene products. But even the chance of a costly legal battle can be enough pressure for independent authors to just give in and do what's been demanded of them. And that's exactly what trademark trolls rely on, claiming fake ownership of a public property and using bullying tactics to impede or tax vulnerable people taking the same route. If she'd have any artistic integrity, she'd at least also stop bathing and start sleeping on a pile of goat bones.
Fortunately, many in the industry are already sharpening their axes to take on Hopkins. They've also already found a billowy-shirted hero in Sam Parrett, the man whose art Hopkins included in her patent and who refuses to let his hard work be part of her villainous schemes. We'll have to wait and see who comes out victorious, but in an industry that runs on fairy tales, our money's not on the evil troll.
For more attempts at witticism and his personal recipes for toilet wine, do follow Cedric on Twitter.
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