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Trademark Reform

Artistic expression is under fire, and the war is escalating. Common, ordinary words are being claimed by trademark for sole use in books, journals, scripts, and other written forms so that no other creative person can use them. The owners of those words are sending cease and desist letters to their existing competition, eliminating the choices for consumers and burdening other creators. Take away our words and how do we communicate? What will we read?

This has to stop, and you can make a difference. The United States Patent and Trademark Office is allowing authors to trademark individual common words so that no others can use them in titles, series names, pen names, or even in the books themselves. These are not brand names but common words being ripped from our vocabulary and held ransom.

For reference on the most infamous example of this abuse going on at this time, I implore you to read the long #cockygate scandal that is rocking the romance genre community. In the past, the science fiction community had to deal with "space marine", and a whole genre was trademarked as "LitRPG". But it is "cocky" that has authors and readers up in arms and united against this despicable practice of trademarking words to restrict their use. (For a history of this whole #cockygate debacle, the articles here sum up what has been happening online: http://www.pajiba.com/think_pieces/cocky-writer-romance-author-faleena-hopkins-trademarks-cocky-and-tries-to-shut-down-others-using-the-word.php and a more recent update at https://www.inquisitr.com/4915884/the-cocky-trademark-author-just-got-cockier/. As a reference, here is another article on this disturbing trend in general: http://www.stites.com/uploads/learning-center/PaulM_Trademark_Takedowns_BarBriefs_Dec2017.pdf) This is just the pebble that starts the avalanche. Other words have been filed and, after being caught and called out for their overreach, withdrawn—"rebellion" and "forever" as examples. This practice has set a dangerous precedent.

We, the writers and artists and readers, ask that you act to stop this abuse of the trademark system, to protect our First Amendment rights and our freedom of expression by doing what is necessary to prevent the commercial weaponization of the trademark system. Some of those actions may involve changing the trademark laws to make it more difficult for such marks to be approved and possibly improving the resources and review processes of the USPTO.

This is an attack upon the free expression of all, but especially the writers, artists, designers, and others whose livelihoods depend upon the written word. It is an attack on free trade on creative products. And it is a dangerous path to censorship.

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