Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Tip of the Day: Protecting book titles part II

If you can register a book title as a trade mark, you've put yourself in a very strong position. Copyright in the book will expire 70 years after the death of the author, whereas a trade mark can keep going for ever. However, a trade mark's life can be cut short if it stops being distinctive: the Registry's own examination guide explains that the name of Sherlock Holmes has been used over the years by too many traders for it still to function as a trade mark. It distinguishes Spiderman, which is not only the name of a fictional character but is also capable of identifying the goods of one trader. So, as with other trade marks, it's important to take care of book titles that you might wish to protect this way.
And other people might well have registered literary trade marks for their own purposes. "Ulysses" is registered in class 16 (the appropriate class for books) - but not by the Joyce estate: it's the trade mark of H-D Michigan, Inc., who also sell motorcycles and related goods. They own many more trade marks too, mostly showing the full name by which they are better known, Harley-Davidson. Should it ever come to it, the Joyce estate would have rights to carry on using the name for books, although whether that use would be considered trade mark use is a moot point. That does show the importance of checking for other people's registered trade marks before you choose a title for your book, though.

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