Sunday, February 28, 2010

Why Snooki's Trademark Application for Books Will Fail

Snooki, the MTV reality show star is a reader.   The Huffington Post recently reported that "she tweeted that she is tackling her very first book -- Nicholas Sparks's Dear John.  Good for her. 

Read One, Write Two

Based on an in-depth Copylaw investigation, it appears that Sparks' novel may have inspired her to write not one, but two or more books.  While trolling the Trademark Office's database, we located a pending "intent to use" application filed by the Jersey Shore cast member for SNOOKI for "Printed matter, namely books."  Note  the "s" at the end of "book."  People.  Snooki has trouble.  With a capital "T."  That rhymes with "S."  And that stands for single title trademark examining attorney objection.   Trademark trouble. 

Good News

The good news is noboby else has attempted to register SNOOKI for "Printed matter, namely books."  Applicant Snooki will likely get a "good news, bad news" letter from the Trademark Office saying, "The Trademark examining attorney has searched the Office's database of registered and pending marks and has found no conflicting marks that would bar registration under Trademark Section 2(d).   However, applicant should note the folllowing ground for refusal." [Emphasis added]

Bad News

So, what's the bad news?  Snooki's "Intent to Use" application will not mature into a trademark registration, unless she publishes a series of "Snooki" books.  Not just one, but a series of books.   It's the law.  Nicholas Sparks inspires, but trademark law commands. 

The Single Title Trademark Rule*

*This is the serious, legally significant portion of my post.  Turn off  the Jersey Shore.  Tune to Charlie Rose.  Pot the volume down.        

Only titles that are part of an ongoing series are protected under trademark law.  Once a series title such as Twilight becomes identified in the public's mind with a particular author or publisher, unfair competition law kicks in to protect against consumer confusion, enforcing a kind of commercial morality.  Once a series has been established, each work in the series reinforces that it comes from the same source as the others. Being a series author is one of the secrets of successful publishing.    If  Snooki plans to launch a series of Snooki tomes, her app is good.  However, "Snooki's Lower Body Solutions" volume one does not a trademark make.  "Snooki's Lower Body Solutions" volume two does.  Note:  Title inspiration comes from Jane Fonda's Lower Body Solutions video series and (now deceased) trademark (Reg. No. 1772827).  (An Aside.  You know you are getting old when well known trademarks from your youth are allowed to expire.)

Conclusion

While the "single title rule" makes little sense, it is the law.  Owners of a single literary title cannot federally register their title on either the Principal or Supplemental Trademark Register. 


Resources:
Protecting Book Titles (Copylaw Blog- Lloyd Jassin)
Trademark Office Database
Law Offices of Lloyd J. Jassin