The following is an edited transcript of my video How to Protect a Book Title.
The quick and short answer to “How can I protect a book title?” is that you can’t. But, when it comes to the law trademarks, everything’s complicated with a lot of variables, and there are ways to work around it.
The title of a book is basically exempt from trademark protection because it’s part of creative expression, and books in general are protected by copyright and copyright registration. The content of a book can be registered as a copyright with the Library of Congress, but that doesn’t really afford any specific protection to the title. Multiple people could write a book with the same title. In fact, there are thousands of books that have overlapping or identical titles.
However, there’s one workaround and one exception. Let’s start with the exception. The exception is when you have a series of books under a title. Harry Potter, Star Wars, or the For Dummies books are all series of books where there are multiple volumes, editions, or publications within that series. When you have a series of books, that title is really acting to truly indicate the source of the series of books and it can be registered and function as a trademark.
The workaround comes up all the time with our clients and it’s that while you might not be able to protect that title for the book itself, it’s very likely that there are auxiliary services associated with writing and publishing that book. Maybe it’s a blog or a website in general. Maybe it’s speaking, videos, webinar, seminars, or other services that aren’t the book but are used with the same title of the book, and the title is indicating the source of those services. That’s how we’re able to register and protect book titles.
In fact, that’s the very example I want to share with you for the title of my book, Building a Bold Brand, which is also used for a website that has articles and videos on it, and information about the book. You can find it at buildingaboldbrand.com. I was able to register the name with the USPTO in connection with providing information in the field of intellectual property — essentially a website providing information about the topic that’s in the book.