Writing Books/trademark


Hi Cathy
I have a friend who has written a biography about a longtime friend of his. He has been threatened not to use this persons name because it has been trademarked. Is this possible and should my friend worry.  

Hi, Tim!

Well, a lot depends on where you're talking about the trademark existing as to what the law is. You're in Canada. I'm in the United States. The laws are totally different on what they protect and how the protection is enforced. In America, a trademark of a name is the equivalent of a "brand." For example, Kleenix Tissues or Coca-Cola. The name is associated with a product and they're often words that don't exist in the common language. Can "Kleenix" trademark the word "tissue?" No, because it's a common word that doesn't specify THAT particular product to the exclusion of others.  A PERSON'S name can be trademarked as it applies to products. "Harry Potter" as a name can't be trademarked. Too many other people in the world have it. But "Harry Potter" with a lightning bolt as the "P" and in a certain font CAN be trademarked. It's not the name that's the issue, but the tie to the franchised reality.

Here's a link to the U.S. Trademark Office's  Frequently Asked Questions Page. It might help you answer the question (again, provided we're talking about the United States laws). http://www.uspto.gov/faq/trademarks.jsp#DefineTrademark

Now, if it's Canada you're asking about, here's a link to those offices with basic information about the process: http://www.cipo.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/cipointernet-internetopic.nsf/eng/h_wr00002.ht

If your friend's friend actually has a trademark on his/her name, it might be because it's associated with a product. If so, it could well be a prolem. You'll need to speak with a solicitor about the consequences of violating that trademark.

Hope that helps a little. Good luck!


Writing Books

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.