Another problem writers face, especially fiction writers, is breaching trademark law. Trademark law protects a business’s commercial identity or brand. It stops companies from using confusingly similar logos, phrases or identities. So, you can’t open a fast food restaurant named McDonna’s with a logo of a golden stylized M.

That is a problem for writers. Just describing a contemporary street scene will probably be a violation of the trademark. According to the letter of the law, it is a violation of trademark to write “there was a Starbucks on the corner.” I’m not generating any monetary gain from using the word Starbucks, but if the company chose to, they could make my life pretty miserable by suing.

There are a few things that stop companies from suing writers willy-nilly. First, it would be pretty expensive to launch so many lawsuits. Another deterrent is that companies spend billions of dollars promoting their images in public. If they get a lot of negative coverage by suing an average person for specious reasons, it can derail their marketing efforts. They just become another soulless corporation. 

Famously, Mattel the toy company does not want anyone using their products’ names in negative ways. Instead of launching tens of thousands of lawsuits, they will make an example of one infringer and sue them back into the stone age. They do this as a warning to others about what might happen if you infringe on their trademark.

And the trademark law can be used for ridiculous purposes. Earlier this year, an American writer named Faleena Hopkins trademarked the word “cocky” in relation to romance novels published in ebook form. She was the author of series of romance novels which all began their titles with cocky. She then started demanding that other romance authors who used cocky in their titles or the word featured prominently in their books, either to change the word or take their books off the market.

This is a horrible use of the law and can set a dangerous precedent. What if other people began trademarking other adjectives? 

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