Title Trademarks vs. Title of a Single Work

Title Trademarks vs. Title of a Single Work

There are many reasons that your trademark application may be rejected by the Trademark Office.  One possible reason is that your mark is the title of a single creative work.  Make sure that you understand the unique rules of title trademarks before filing your application.  This blog post will give you an overview of this refusal, and how to spot a single title versus a trademark.

The “Title of a Single Work” Refusal

Applications for title trademarks will be rejected if the mark is used in connection with a single work.  A single work is just what it sounds like: a creative work that is not part of a larger series.  For example, let’s say that I wrote a book called “The Red Bird.”  That name would not be a trademark, because anyone that sees the title will just think it is the name of the book.  They would not assume that it is part of a larger brand.  So the Trademark Office will reject trademark applications that fall into this trap.  Of course, books are not the only creative works that can face this issue.  Movies, music albums, and individual songs can also face this type of rejection.

Title Trademarks/Series Works

While a single work’s title is not generally perceived as a trademark, names used for a series certainly can be.  An example of a title trademark that can be registered is HARRY POTTER.  That is because HARRY POTTER is not the name of just one book, but a complete book series.  For example, the first book in the series is “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”  Then there’s “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” and so on.  HARRY POTTER is the title trademark used for this book series, and is therefore perceived as a trademark instead of just a title.

There are some types of creative works where this rule does not apply.  For example, TV shows are presumed to run in a series format, where the episodes are different from one another.  Also, band names used in connection with live musical performances are title trademarks because the performances are expected to vary from concert to concert.  Similarly, video game names are title trademarks because they are different experiences each time they are played.

From a strategy standpoint, it is important to remember that making a creative work takes time.  You may have plans for a series where you want to protect the series’ name.  But obviously you do not want to rush your work and have it turn out poorly.  It takes a lot of time to produce multiple works under a title trademark.  That is why in this situation, it may be advisable to file an Intent to Use application for your trademark.  With an Intent to Use application, your rights will date back to your application filing date.  And you can file multiple Requests for an Extension of Time to ensure that you have time to complete two or more entries in your series.

Do You Need Legal Protection for Your Creative Work?

Aside from being able to assist you from a trademark perspective, I can also help with the copyright registration for your work.  If you would like to work with a knowledgeable trademark and copyright attorney, please call me at (314) 479-3668, email me at kevin@yourtrademarkattorney.com, or complete the contact form found on this page to schedule your free initial consultation today. I look forward to speaking with you.