I want to trademark all the vowels except ‘u’

Apparently a small storm’s brewed in the US over an author who, according to the Guardian, trademarked the word ‘cocky’ and has approached other authors to remove it from their book titles.

“We are from ZONTAR. We own the trademark on the word YEWFOE. Hand over all things of value – yes, your planet’s entire water supply and every last Chicken Nugget in existence!” Public domain.

According to the OED the word means ‘conceited or confident in a bold and cheeky way’, though I can think of a few other meanings (check out next Wednesday’s ‘Obscure English Word’ post). It’s intriguing. You can’t copyright book titles, legally they are ‘short slogans’ that can’t be covered by intellectual property law. But clearly there’s nothing to stop anybody trademarking anything. Including, it seems, a word in a book title.

Problem is, as Kiwi NYT best-selling novelist (and former lawyer) Nalini Singh remarked on Twitter, what happens if other words are trademarked? It’s not a good precedent. I see there’s already a petition requesting cancellation of the ‘cocky’ trademark, plus talk of possible legal action.

My take? I think it’ll blow over and there’ll be a legal precedent set that prevents ordinary words being trademarked. And that’s where my plan comes in. I’m going to trademark letters. Specifically, ‘a’, ‘e’, ‘i’, and ‘o’. I won’t trademark ‘u’, I don’t like that letter. But I like the others.

What’s more, and here’s the cunning part of the plan, I’ll get users to pay me a monthly fee for each trademarked letter. I’m thinking a cent a vowel. And it’s not as if the income’s going to help me make ends meet.  Sure, if the Worldometer is to be believed, over 935,000 books have been published so far in 2018 as I write this, which probably means I’ll net squillions. But – but that won’t go far. I don’t know what other people might do if they got a lot of money suddenly, but for me there’s the world’s entire turnip supply. I’ll need all the license fees I can get off those four vowels to afford to buy it, I suspect.

I mean, who’s going to complain? It’s not like I want ALL of the vowels in English, or that I’m being cocky about it…

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2018

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11 thoughts on “I want to trademark all the vowels except ‘u’

  1. hehehe sounds like a good plan 😉 I think you’ve earned a good deal of money just from me typing this sentence 😉
    (also I heard about this and it absolutely *infuriated* me that an author would decide to bully other authors like this- just ugh. Fortunately it seems like the other authors are having help fighting back now, so it looks like it will blow over)

    1. Yes, hopefully it’ll all settle down. Apparently the trademark holder issued a 90 minute video ranting at everybody about it – it got taken down before I could look at it, though – honestly – that’d be ninety minutes of my life I wouldn’t get back. I’d rather be reading or writing! It kind of worries me that so much about writing, reviewing, Amazon promotional algorithms, etc, has been weaponised in the last few years, often by people who aren’t themselves particularly talented or influential, and all on some kind of zero-sum basis. It’s not a great statement about fundamental human nature. Sigh. What ever happened to the idea of gently uplifting each other and mutual support? As for me, I’m re-reading ‘Winnie the Pooh’ just now – because of that very philosophy.

      1. And yep. The author in question also sent out loads of threatening emails to loads of independent authors telling them to change their titles and covers or face legal action. And plus they used Amazon to get them to take other authors books down (fortunately the Romantic Writers Association got Amazon to put everything up again)- but that only proves how Amazon can be abused like you said. Basically yeah, it really shows a horrible side to human nature. It’s very depressing- but at least people have been trying to promote all the other authors effected by this, so that’s at least a plus (but like you I think I might go away and read something nice like winnie the pooh after this too)

  2. I’m happy you took a stand on this, Matthew. 🙂

    When word of Faleena Hopkins successfully Trademarking that word popped up on Scribophile, I confess…I rolled my eyes.

    Then…out went the Take Down Notices.
    After that…Amazon’s big hammer dropped on writers using that word in romance titles.
    And rumor has it that Amazon deleted reviews using that word.

    All in all, what started out as funny got very serious.

    In 1984, didn’t George Winston have a job of eliminating target words from the vocabulary with the idea that if dissenters couldn’t articulate their objections, that would neuter them?

  3. Trademarking isn’t cheap. I’ve looked into it, but when I’m rich enough I’ll trademark everything connected to my books including common first names. Don’t worry, there are no Matthews in the TotenUniverse, but I might trademark the letter M.

  4. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    I was looking to reblog a post today, but didn’t know who to pick, then I read this and knew it was the one. I did not think common words were allowed to be trademarked. I also did not know you could go to prior the trademark date and demand payment. Has she billed all the dictionary publishers? U cn hv ur vwls. ‘ll g wthut.

    1. I don’t think it’s possible to retroactively charge for prior usages either. I don’t know where the ‘cocky’ trademark issue will go but I’d expect once lawyers get involved it’ll be sorted out (and the people who’ll make all the money out of it will be those lawyers…)

  5. I want to be sure that I understand. Are you thinking of trademarking the letters “a,” “e,” “i,” and “o”? Or are you thinking of trademarking the sounds they represent? Or both? I am particularly worried about the several “long” vowel sounds.

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