How Can I Protect A Book Title?

by Anne Wayman

books and book titlesHi Anne,

I have always dreamed of taking the time and write a book pertaining to my childhood.

I have a very good name for this book and want to be able to protect this name now before its taken away.

How do i go about protecting the book title before I have actually published the book?

Thanks,

GM 

Hi GM,

I’m sorry, but in the U.S. book titles can’t be copyrighted.

I don’t really know the reason for this but I suspect it’s because the title of a book is really its name and names can’t be copyrighted either. There are lots of Annes in the world and lots of Waymans too.

You’ll find a fair number of duplicate book titles and movie titles. If you’re curious search for facing fear in books at Amazon. I think you’ll be surprised.


The truth of book sales is that although the title is important, marketing that book has much more influence on its success.

Of course once a book or a movie becomes a classic like, for example, Ulysses,  authors usually don’t want to use that title again although there’s nothing to prevent them from doing so.

Mostly I’d suggest you not worry about it too much. Even if you find someone else is using the title you’ve thought of, the chances are your book will be entirely different.


I should also point out that under certain circumstances a title can be trademarked. That’s expensive, probably requires legal help and unless you’re planning on selling ancillary items probably not worth it.

Go ahead and write your book. You’ll be fine.

Do you have a question about freelance writing? Send me an email with Q&A in the subject line and I’ll do my best to answer it here.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa Russell October 26, 2013 at 10:56 pm

I sat down and wrote my stories… used a silly name i thought would never be used by anyone… But to my great disappointment about a year after writing them, more than one… sure enough out came a book with my title name and characters name… Thought it was trash and I would have to rewrite. My question is… is it saveable?

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About Freelance February 16, 2012 at 3:10 am

If your business name is copywright protected, and you write a book about your business, wouldn’t that, in essence, be protecting your book? Or would that still fall under the ‘creative commons’ license for others to write about?
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annew February 16, 2012 at 8:12 am

Let’s see, I don’t think you can copyright a business name either because it’s a name and they can’t be copyrighted. If you had trademarked your business name and the name of your book was the same it might be protected, but you’re moving way out of my knowledge area on this.

Creative commons is something else entirely – it’s a way of granting certain rights that’s new and may not be entirely enforceable but is, I think, a great idea.

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Jenn Mattern February 17, 2012 at 8:22 am

Like Anne said, business names aren’t copyrighted and Creative Commons has nothing to do with it (that’s just a license type you can choose to give your work). You’d have a trademark (or a service mark). You don’t have to register them. You just have to be the first to use the name in business (with certain restrictions — for example, two companies can have the same name if they’re in entirely different industries and there would be no brand dilution).

Using your business name in a book title doesn’t necessarily mean the book title is protected. That’s because trademarks have limitations. It’s the same with Web addresses. A domain name isn’t automatically yours because you trademarked a name in business. And other people can use your trademarked name in another site title in some situations (like YourCompanySucks.com).

Assuming you’re in the U.S. spend some time looking over Copyright.gov and USPTO.gov (for trademark info). You’ll find a lot of good info there.
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Jenn Mattern February 17, 2012 at 8:24 am

I just want to clarify the point about not having to register your trademark. That’s absolutely true. You don’t have to register anything to technically have a trademark. But you need to register if you want full access to the courts, should you want to sue someone over infringement later on. If nothing else, make sure you can prove first use.
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annew February 20, 2012 at 7:19 am

That’s my understanding too… I’ve got one project I’m put the tm on as an indication I want it protected, but that’s as far as I’ve gone so far.

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annew February 20, 2012 at 7:22 am

Good recommendation Jenn, re USPTO.gov – tons of info that’s fairly clear.

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