Textbook copyrights and trademarks

I am done with the first draft of my finance textbook, that I am self-publishing. I am making it available for sale only to my students in the fall, with a proper launch next year after i incorporate feedback. The book will be in physical copy. 

 

I am working on the copyright page. Are there any specific disclaimers (or any other legal clauses) that I should include? Are there any "risks" to writing a textbook that I should try to mitigate?

 

Trademarks: What should I trademark - the book title, the byline, the name of the publishing house (which i made up/ "founded"), author's name? Or, all of these?

 

I care both about people reusing my material, as well as people passing off their own material as mine, if my work somehow gets brand recognition...

 

Anything else, last minute? 

 

Thanks!

Comments

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor

    sidd_d wrote:

    I am done with the first draft of my finance textbook, that I am self-publishing. I am making it available for sale only to my students in the fall, with a proper launch next year after i incorporate feedback. The book will be in physical copy. 

     

    I am working on the copyright page. Are there any specific disclaimers (or any other legal clauses) that I should include? Are there any "risks" to writing a textbook that I should try to mitigate?

     

    Trademarks: What should I trademark - the book title, the byline, the name of the publishing house (which i made up/ "founded"), author's name? Or, all of these?

     

    I care both about people reusing my material, as well as people passing off their own material as mine, if my work somehow gets brand recognition...

     

    Anything else, last minute? 

     

    Thanks!


    The standard copyright notice--- Copyright © 2016 Your Name ---is all you need to include.

    You can, if you wish, formally register the work with the US Copyright Office, but you have a legal copyright from the moment you completed your book.

     

    You may be treading some grey areas when it comes to trademarking your title (this is done through the Patent Office, by the way). (I can't imagine why you would want to trademark your own name---which would be a difficult to impossible thing to do in any case: there may well be many authors out there with the same name as your own and you cannot prevent them from writing books. I know, for instance, that there are several other Ron Millers publishing books. You would probably only be able to make a case if someone used your name to write a book that others might easily confuse for something you created.)

     

    The first thing you might want to do is a search of the trademark data base to make sure someone else hasn't already registered the same names or titles. By the way, checking the data base I find that Ron Miller Associates is a registered trade name for a company that makes golf equipment. This would in no way prevent me from trademarking my name in association with some entirely different business.

     

    There are 17 different registered trademarks with "John Smith" as part of their names.

     

    According to the Patent Office, "A trademark includes any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination used, or intended to be used, in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others, and to indicate the source of the goods. In short, a trademark is a brand name." This does not mean that you have absolutely exclusive use to the title of your book, however. Two products can have the same name but so long as there is no danger of anyone confusing the products there is no problem. For instance, you could have Borden brand ice cream and Borden brand tractors.

     

    There is some excellent advice here: http://www.copylaw.com/new_articles/titles.html Especially pertinent is this paragraph :Unlike series titles, titles of a single work, whether a book, periodical, song, movie, or television program, normally, will not be protected under either trademark or unfair competition law. This is one of the quirks of trademark law. To quote the USPTO, “Regardless of the actual relation of the title to the book,” courts treat all single title works as "inherently descriptive" at best and "inherently generic" at worst – unless the single title has had “wide promotion and great success.”"

     

    In short, trademarks are meant to protect brands. So...you would probably have a very hard time trademarking the title of your book...unless the title of your book was to be the title of a series. For instance, "---- for Dummies" can be trademarked as a series title. But if that had not been a series, a standalone book called (say) "Brain Surgery for Dummies" could not be trademarked. 

     

    Someone could still have a book with the same title as yours...but they could not establish a brand with that same name.

     

    I think that if you really find it absolutely necessary to go through all of this, you should probably find an attorney who specializes in copyright and trademark law.

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Very thorough and clear; thanks Ron. Based on what you said, there doesn't seem to be much benefit in trademarking either my name or the book title (common words - "Capital Markets and Investments" and only a single title, and the book hasn't achieved wide acclaim yet). 

     

    Here's what I am struggling with. Let's assume, for a moment,  that this book becomes big and I become famous (otherwise trademarks don't matter). What stops unscrupulous people from taking on my name as an obscure pen-name, and writing on the same topic? Or, someone else putting out a book on a similar topic with the same title? 

     

    I guess this gets to the heart of, "What is a brand?" And I wonder if the process of trademarking helps create the brand by not allowing others to cannibalize it...

     

    I am no longer that enthusiastic about trademarking, based on your very helpful observations, but wonder if there is an alternative. Any point trademarking the name of my publishing house, or Ron Miller Associates?

     

    Thanks much!

     

    Sid


  • sidd_d wrote:

    Very thorough and clear; thanks Ron. Based on what you said, there doesn't seem to be much benefit in trademarking either my name or the book title (common words - "Capital Markets and Investments" and only a single title, and the book hasn't achieved wide acclaim yet). 

     

    Here's what I am struggling with. Let's assume, for a moment,  that this book becomes big and I become famous (otherwise trademarks don't matter). What stops unscrupulous people from taking on my name as an obscure pen-name, and writing on the same topic? Or, someone else putting out a book on a similar topic with the same title? 

     

    I guess this gets to the heart of, "What is a brand?" And I wonder if the process of trademarking helps create the brand by not allowing others to cannibalize it...

     

    I am no longer that enthusiastic about trademarking, based on your very helpful observations, but wonder if there is an alternative. Any point trademarking the name of my publishing house, or Ron Miller Associates?

     

    Thanks much!

     

    Sid


    In the sense of a physical safeguard, nothing whatsoever stops someone who is determined to commit a crime from committing that crime.

     

    What would deter someone -- if they can be detered -- is the fact that they would lose any profits and also the shirts off of their backs in the resulting copyright infringement lawsuit.

     

    Let us suppose that you publish "A Brick Named Sussanah; tales of Masonry with Personality. by Xavier Q. Ichabod, PhD." Now suppose that someone who is named John Smith publishes a book, "Bricks named Susana: Personality in Masonry., by X. Q. Ichabod."

     

    If you have registered your copyright with the USPTO / LOC, you can now sue Mr. Smith, and your case is a slam dunk, because:

    1. Your copyright is registered, and

    2. You published first, showing that his is the derivitive work, and

    3. The similarity of his "pen name" to your real name is clearly intended to deceive the public, as is the similarity in titles.

     

    You obtain royalties and punitive damages, and he gets a sore hand from writing checks to you.

     

    Please note that I am not a lawyer, and this is not advice.

     

    You can't prevent anyone from doing anything, but you can use the power of civil law to deter them from it by making it unprofitable for them.

     

    Of course, if the infringing party is in Bolivia, Kazahkastan, or Lower Volta, your only recourse is to prevent the publication of his book in the US by suing importers and distributors. But still -- it's an open and shut case.

  • Still not a lawyer; still not giving advice:

     

    A trademark is distinct from a patent (for example, a design patent) or a copyright in that a trademark exclusively applies to symbols and names which distinguish your business within your trade from other businesses within your trade.

     

    Let's suppose that you open New York Minutes, a buiness selling time on cell phones. You register the trademark. Someone else opens New York Minutes, a business specializing in recording and transcribing meetings. Their use of the name does not infringe upon yours, because no one could reasonably believe that their business is your business.

     

    There are also regional considerations. There is a local soda company in Alaska which uses a polar bear as a logo. When Cocacola began a nationwide campaign involving polar bears frolicking in the snow and drinking cocacola, this local company sued and won. Coke was not allowed to air the ads within the local companies sales area. Someone might reasonably have purchased a coke believing it to be the same company.

     

    Trademarks exist even if they are not registered, by the way, but the company must have been doing business with that trademark longer than the infringing business.

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor

    sidd_d wrote:

    Very thorough and clear; thanks Ron. Based on what you said, there doesn't seem to be much benefit in trademarking either my name or the book title (common words - "Capital Markets and Investments" and only a single title, and the book hasn't achieved wide acclaim yet). 

     

     

    Here's what I am struggling with. Let's assume, for a moment,  that this book becomes big and I become famous (otherwise trademarks don't matter). What stops unscrupulous people from taking on my name as an obscure pen-name, and writing on the same topic? Or, someone else putting out a book on a similar topic with the same title? 

     

    Why shouldn't someone put out a book on a similar topic with the same title? This has, in fact, happened innumerable times.

     

    And the suggested scenario of someone going to all the trouble of writing an entire book on the same topic as yours and publishing it under your name is pretty unlikely, as I am sure even you will have to admit. In any case, if you felt that such a book damaged your reputation and that your name had been used fraudulently, you would probably have a case just on those grounds alone.

     

    Frankly, I think you are getting far, far too ahead of yourself.

     

    I guess this gets to the heart of, "What is a brand?" And I wonder if the process of trademarking helps create the brand by not allowing others to cannibalize it...

     

    A brand refers to a series of products produced under a single name. This can be as large and inclusive as Campbell's soups on down to the Twilight series of novels. And you are right about what the trademarking process is supposed to do. 

     

    For instance, if you were to, say, publish a series of books all related by topic under the general heading of something like "Professor Nematode's Opinions on -----" you would have a brand. 

     

    I am no longer that enthusiastic about trademarking, based on your very helpful observations, but wonder if there is an alternative. Any point trademarking the name of my publishing house, or Ron Miller Associates?

     

    I don't think there is any point to it at all, certainly not at this stage, unless it gives you some particular satisfaction. And if your book is as successful as you hope, you might wind up with a contract with a traditional publisher, rendering your own publishing house irrelevant.

     

    Thanks much!

     

    Sid


     

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/

  • Ron Miller wrote:

    sidd_d wrote:

    Very thorough and clear; thanks Ron. Based on what you said, there doesn't seem to be much benefit in trademarking either my name or the book title (common words - "Capital Markets and Investments" and only a single title, and the book hasn't achieved wide acclaim yet). 

     

     

    Here's what I am struggling with. Let's assume, for a moment,  that this book becomes big and I become famous (otherwise trademarks don't matter). What stops unscrupulous people from taking on my name as an obscure pen-name, and writing on the same topic? Or, someone else putting out a book on a similar topic with the same title? 

     

    Why shouldn't someone put out a book on a similar topic with the same title? This has, in fact, happened innumerable times.

     

    And the suggested scenario of someone going to all the trouble of writing an entire book on the same topic as yours and publishing it under your name is pretty unlikely, as I am sure even you will have to admit. In any case, if you felt that such a book damaged your reputation and that your name had been used fraudulently, you would probably have a case just on those grounds alone.

     

    Frankly, I think you are getting far, far too ahead of yourself.

     

    I guess this gets to the heart of, "What is a brand?" And I wonder if the process of trademarking helps create the brand by not allowing others to cannibalize it...

     

    A brand refers to a series of products produced under a single name. This can be as large and inclusive as Campbell's soups on down to the Twilight series of novels. And you are right about what the trademarking process is supposed to do. 

     

    For instance, if you were to, say, publish a series of books all related by topic under the general heading of something like "Professor Nematode's Opinions on -----" you would have a brand. 

     

    I am no longer that enthusiastic about trademarking, based on your very helpful observations, but wonder if there is an alternative. Any point trademarking the name of my publishing house, or Ron Miller Associates?

     

    I don't think there is any point to it at all, certainly not at this stage, unless it gives you some particular satisfaction. And if your book is as successful as you hope, you might wind up with a contract with a traditional publisher, rendering your own publishing house irrelevant.

     

    Thanks much!

     

    Sid


     


    Agreed. I'm getting ahead of myself, and thinking of trademarks at this stage is moot. You made some cogent arguments earlier, which helped me decide. If the book gets big, since I have total control, I can simply work on these issues then.

     

    FYI, I turned down a contract with the biggest textbook publisher in my field because I didn't like their terms; the royalty split was weak and the other terms were one-sided.  I am adamant about pursuing the publishing process seriously on my own. 

  • Understood. I'm not really paranoid about this (though I may appear to be), but want to be careful that I am not missing an obvious safeguard since I am not working with a major publisher.

     

  • potetjppotetjp Professor

    sidd_d a écrit :

     

    Trademarks: What should I trademark - the book title, the byline, the name of the publishing house (which i made up/ "founded"), author's name? Or, all of these?

    "© year your name" clearly states that you are the copyright owner of this publication.

    I suppose the brand name of your publishing house is entered in some legal commerce register. Otherwise do it ASAP.

     

    I care both about people reusing my material, as well as people passing off their own material as mine, if my work somehow gets brand recognition...

    These are legitimate worries. From the moment your book is published, everything copied from it is a piece of plagiarism, unless it is a quotation with due reference to your book - in which case it means you have become famous in your field.

    Someone posing as your good self and publishing their own production under your name poses a special problem. That person can always claim they are a namesake, or that their pen-name is your namesake by chance. A lawyer would certainly be interested in this case.

    The real danger is that some students will xerox your book to sell it to other students. Some people are extremely gullible and will buy the xerox without realizing it is far more expensive than the printed copy.

     


     

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor

    If it is of any comfort for you to know this, I have had about fifty books published commercially over the past 40 years. A number of these have done well enough to receive awards and commendations. A few books have even done very well commercially. One, for instance, has gone through three different editions, has been a featured selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, Quality Paperback Book Club and Newbridge Book Club and currently has about 190,000 copies in print. My most recent book spent about a week with a sales rank of 10 on Amazon and the past year since hovering around 30,000.

     

    I'm not telling you these things in order to brag but to point out that in spite of all of this history I am not aware of even a single instance of the kind of plagiarism or identity theft you are worried about. (Since many of my books have been heavily illustrated, I have often found scans of this art appearing online---something I am constantly on the alert for.) I am sure, as potetjp suggests, that there have been people who have photocopied the entirety of one of my books for one reason or another, but the effect of a copy like that is negligible.

     

    All of this being said, there are people who will try to take advantage of a best-selling author's status.

    http://www.briankeene.com/2016/02/17/what-it-takes-to-be-a-bestseller/

    But it might be worth considering the fact that you need to start with the best-selling status of an author like King in order to make this sort of imposture worthwhile.

     

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • I am holding off on e-books to slow down the photocopying problem. I know i am handing out  a draft in hard copy even before publication, but cannot be paranoid about this. 

    I have just dreamt up a name for a publishing house and am using it on the book, but I haven't bought an ISBN using that name yet or trademarking, so I guess I can hold off getting a business license from the state/ city for the moment. 

    I will worry about trademarks, etc. once the book takes off.  Too much to do now. Thanks, everyone!

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