There is no copyright in titles. A quick search on Amazon has shown me that there are at least ten novels with the same title as mine; The Promise.
However, difficulties can arise if the words in your title have been trademarked by someone else. I came across two incidents of this recently.
Firstly, I met someone to whom this had happened. The author’s publisher was contacted by the lawyer of a company who had trademarked a phrase very similar to, but not exactly the same as, the title of this writer’s book. The company used this trademark to identify a series of books rather than a single book. The company’s lawyer threatened legal action if the title of my acquaintance’s book wasn’t changed. This meant my author acquaintance and their publisher had to decide whether to get into a legal battle, which could be costly, or whether to change the title of the book, stand the cost of destroying the existing copies and reprinting.
Secondly, I came across an article about a romantic novelist who has trademarked the word ‘cocky’ for use in book titles. Faleena Hopkins has self-published a series of romance novels featuring the Cocker brothers and each has the word ‘cocky’ in the title. Following her trademarking, Faleena has asked several other romantic novelists to remove the word ‘cocky’ from their book titles. This hasn’t gone down well and a petition has been started to ask the US Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the ‘cocky’ trademark. See the full Guardian article for more details.
I am not a lawyer and if you have any specific questions or concerns in this area you should seek professional advice from a qualified person or a reputable organisation such as the Society of Authors. However, from some internet research, it seems to that:
- Individual book titles cannot be trademarked but the name relating to a whole series of books can e.g. Chicken Soup for the Soul
- Trademarks are generally registered at a national level but there are mechanisms to register them in multiple countries.
- Trademarks are generally registered to apply only to a certain range of products or services such as chemicals, vehicles, printed matter etc.
More information can be found at: