The newest twist in the Cockygate saga is author Faleena Hopkins’ recent legal filing for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order. If you want to read the filing, check out Kevin Kneupper’s twitter page @kneupperwriter. He is the retired attorney and author filing to have Hopkin’s trademark cancelled, and he is one of the parties mentioned in Hopkins’ filing.
One of the passages in Hopkins’ recent filing has gone viral on Twitter. It states: “Romance Novel Series Consumers Do Not Exercise a High Degree of Care. Unsophisticated consumers aggravate the likelihood of confusion.”
It goes on to explain that these unsophisticated consumers are basically confused by similar covers and end up buying the wrong book—hence the reason for the trademark, to protect those hapless consumers.
One trademark attorney pointed out that the only way to infringe on a trademark is to argue the “likeliness of confusion” in the mind of the consumer. Another lawyer friend mentioned this to me when I expressed annoyance at what appeared to be Ms. Hopkins disparaging romance readers.
But, even if it was nothing more than a legal tactic by her attorney, and she had nothing to do with the wording, the assertion is ridiculous and false.
At one time I was a voracious romance reader. This was back when Fabio romance covers were the rage. For several years I would read three to four books a week. I wasn’t much for television, and during the week my husband was away at work, so on my way home from work I would stop at the used book store or library and pick up a book. This was before eBooks.
All those Fabio covers never confused me. But, they were a clue. I knew that if I was in the mood for a “certain” type of romance I’d look first for Fabio. We called them bodice rippers back then.
But it was mostly about the author. I would find a favorite romance author and then read all her books—one after another. Authors like Judith McNaught, Julie Garwood, Jude Deveraux, Johanna Lindsey, Mary Jo Putney, Kathleen Woodiwiss, and others. When I finished all the books I could find written by the author I enjoyed, I would then look for a new author. If I wanted a similar read to the author I had finished, I would look for similar covers. I would then read the blurb on the back of the book before making the purchase.
If I liked this new author’s book, I would then buy all her books. Did I find them by the covers? No, by the AUTHOR NAME.
You see, romance readers use covers as a clue to the type of read they enjoy. And they are fully aware authors within the same genre may have similar covers. THAT is how it is done. THAT is how it has been done for over 40 years. I know, because I have been reading romance books for longer than that.
Romance readers KNOW their authors. This is especially true in the age of the internet. Romance authors now have Facebook pages, Instagram, online fan groups, newsletters, and other forms of social media. Readers seek them out, not by cover, but by their name. I find it odd that Ms. Hopkins is using the cover confusion factor as a reason for her trademark, when she herself has her own online fan group and claims to receive fan letters from readers. How does she think they are finding her?
To insinuate romance readers just look at the cover and pay no attention to the author’s name—well that doesn’t say romance readers are stupid. But it does make the attorney (or his client) who made that argument look clueless in regards to his/her knowledge of romance readers and how they make their purchases. To be honest, that claim is utterly cringe worthy.