Thursday, March 26, 2015

Fear of Trademarks

What is a trademark, and why do writers care? There aren’t many ways a writer can get into trademark trouble, but some let fear keep them from using trademarks in their manuscripts. So even though trademarks are rarely an issue for a writer, it’s helpful to understand them.

In simple terms, a trademark is any word, name, symbol, or device that makes you think of a particular product or group of products. If you hear “McDonald’s” or see the golden arches, you think of a specific chain of fast food restaurants and the menu items those restaurants sell. Notice that marks can include words without symbols and symbols without words. Both the name “Nike” and the swoosh are trademarks, and they do not have to be used together to qualify.

Technically, marks that identify services (e.g., FedEx for overnight delivery) rather than goods are called service marks, but the same rules apply to both service marks and trademarks. So when I talk about trademarks, I am discussing service marks as well.

Consumers rely on recognizable marks to tell them that they are getting a certain quality or a product with particular characteristics. When they see the Nike swoosh on a pair of shoes, they expect those shoes to last. When a counterfeiter prints the swoosh (or something resembling it) on shoddy-quality goods, people are misled. That harms both the consumer (who is not getting what the person thought he or she was paying for) and Nike (who loses sales to the counterfeiter and could suffer harm to its reputation when the shoes fall apart). That’s why trademarks are so important in today’s world.

That’s also why a name or symbol does not become a trademark until consumers recognize it as shorthand for that particular product or service. And even after marks have been used for many years, they vary in their ability to identify a particular product. The law recognizes five types of marks, listed below from the weakest to the strongest.

  • Generic marks can never qualify as trademarks. All hamburgers are hamburgers, regardless of who makes them. A ground beef patty company is free to call itself “Hamburger,” but it cannot prevent anyone else from using the same name.
  • Descriptive marks—which includes surnames and geographic locations—do not qualify as trademarks unless they have acquired a secondary meaning that associates them with a particular product. “McDonald’s” and “The Teaching Company” are examples of descriptive marks that have achieved trademark status.
  • Suggestive marks are marks that suggest the product. “V-8” is less direct than either the generic “juice” or the descriptive “eight vegetables,” but it has a logical connection with the product it represents. Suggestive marks can be trademarks, but they are more vulnerable to challenge than the next two categories are.
  • Arbitrary marks are very strong. These are marks that originally have a meaning that is unrelated to the product. Fruit has nothing to do with computers, so “Apple” is an arbitrary mark.
  • Fanciful marks are the strongest of all. These are simply made-up words, like “eBay.”

What do these categories have to do with your writing? Probably nothing. I just think they’re fun.

But next week we’ll talk about the most common type of trademark infringement and how it could apply to your manuscripts.   


Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Her most recent book, Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal (KP/PK Publishing 2013), is a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection. Kathryn is also the author of In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion (FaithWalk Publishing 2006) and numerous articles. You can learn more about Kathryn at

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What J. K. Rowling Means to Me

By Kelly Bridgewater

If you had been following my posts for the last two months, I have decided to share in how 12 different writers have affected me as a writer. First, in January, I started with C.S. Lewis who gave me the gift of imagination. Then, in February, I discussed how J. R. R. Tolkien taught me that conflict is necessary for a story. Now in March, I want to talk about world building.

J. K. Rowling does a great job at creating a wizard’s world right alongside the world of Muggles. When the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone hit the shelves in America during 1997, I was only sixteen and didn’t pay attention to the books. I grew up in the church. I went to Bible quizzing and puppet practice while doing fundraisers to pay for the annual conference. Every time the church doors were open, my family was there, worshiping and learning about God.

When I turned twenty, I was a newlywed bride with a little baby boy to take care of. I worked at a Christian bookstore, which was my favorite job to date. We could borrow books and return them directly from the shelf. Great perk!  The Christian community was up in arms about this young adult series that allowed the hero, Harry Potter, to use magic. I remember the community, even customers that came to the store, downgrading this book series. As an avid reader, I wanted to know what all the fuss was about.

J. K. Rowling
Taken from J. K. Rowling's Amazon Author's Page
So I went to the nearby library and checkout the first one. By that time, J. K. Rowling had just released the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. If anyone could get kids to read a 752 page book, how could the book be wrong? I devoured the book.  After reading all four of the books that had been released, I truly enjoyed J. K. Rowling’s writing style.

She had captured my attention with describing every detail of Hogwarts and Diagon Alley. Rowling has a great way of including her reader in the plot. Every person who read the book felt like they were in the hallowed halls of Hogwarts, hunting alongside Harry, Ron, and Hermione as they tried to solve the clues. I loved watching Harry and his friends mature through every book, including developing Harry into a hero when he defeated Voldermort.

J. K. Rowling also has a great way of writing sentences that defies every grammar book. I own a book, Grammar for College Writing: A Sentence-Composing Approach by Don and Jenny Killgallon that explains how J. K. Rowling wrote such masterful sentences. It includes other sentence structures by other great novelist. I have been working my way through the book for a while now.

Rowling has taught me to build a world that everyone will love, even if it is the most popular genre at the moment. Write what you love and what you feel inspired to write. If God allows you to have the desire and the skills to write it, then God will help make it a reality.  With her ability to story build and her sentence structure, I have improved my writing.

Did you read the Harry Potter series? Go back and look at some of her sentences. They are well-constructed. I have even used them in grammar lessons in my college classes.  What was your favorite part about Harry Potter?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Huge New Release Historical Christian Romance Giveaway!

Who's ready for a book GIVEAWAY!?! Do you like historical romance? Then this is the giveaway for you! 10 authors have teamed up to bring you a fun giveaway -- just in time for your spring reading. Enter to win one of the books pictured here -- there will be 10 winners in all, each winning 1 book. You may need to log into Facebook again. This contest is not endorsed, administered, or sponsored by Facebook. Open to US residents only. GOOD LUCK! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, March 2, 2015

Why you shouldn't worry about the publishing industry

A lot of Christian authors are fretting about Family Christian Stores filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy and what it could mean for the Christian publishing industry.

I'll admit it's scary. The store's financial crisis means publishers won't get paid. As a result, publishers will suffer financially and may be reluctant to take a risk on a new author. Exisiting authors may receive less money for contracts than they received in the past because the money isn't there.

 And so, the doors, which may have opened more easily for unpublished authors, could now be slamming shut. 

But that's no reason to stop writing.

Especially if God called you as His scribe.

Many are called to preach, but they don't get paid to do it.

 Many are called to sing, but they don't have contracts, and yet they sing every week in their worship services to the glory of God.

 Many are called to teach, but volunteer their time in Sunday School. 

I'm not saying that all writers should be glad to give their work away. But the reality is, not everyone is chosen to have a full-time paid writing life. Most writers are bi-vocational. And a lot of musicians, preachers and teachers are, too.

We can't peer into the future and know what will happen in the publishing industry. Publishers themselves are a bit in the dark.

There's only one thing I can guarantee: nothing is for certain.

And yet, I don't think there's been a better time to be a writer. A mere 20 years ago, writers couldn't find the audiences that we have access to now via the Internet.  Blogging wasn't a "thing" until the late 90s, and even then, many folks had no clue what it was. (I'm happy to say I did.)

Now, via our blogs and social media, we write and publish our thoughts immediately. I feel giddy thinking about it. What do you suppose Shakespeare or  Hemingway would have blogged about? Just think of the tools we have that they never dreamed of.

As never before, we have a global reach as writers. People in far away countries have read my books. I don't think it would have happened so quickly 10 or 20 years ago.

God placed us in this world for such a time as this. And we can trust Him with our call. We may not get to do the things we want, but we will definitely get to do the things He's created us for if we obey. We may never be interviewed on CNN or have our books listed in Publisher's Weekly, but that's okay. Because what really matters is that we're listed in the Lamb's Book of Life, and that those we write for have the chance to consider their place in its pages, too.

The devil would love nothing more than to silence you. Don't let him win. His voices aren't quitting. They continue to churn out filth and drivel in every language. And they take no shame in spewing their message via self-publishing.

Self-publishing is a viable option. I repeat. Do not be ashamed to self-publish. It's here to stay. It's not going away. It's just too easy now. (Having said that, do NOT publish until your work is pristine. I'll blog more about self-publishing later.)

I predict that traditional publishers will look at those who self-publish successfully, as much as they look at social media credentials and talent, when considering a contract.

Where it used to be considered unprofessional to self-publish, if you do it right and you're successful, it's now considered admirable. It shows you have the stick-to-it-ness and work ethic needed for a good author to be successful.

 However, the irony is this: if you're self-publishing successfully, why would you want to go the traditional route? (More about this later, too.) And herein is why publishing companies are in a bit of a quandary, wanting to play it safe (I don't blame them), and afraid to take risks on new voices.

There is room, nay, a need in this world for the Christian voice. If we quit writing, our voices, which are so often drowned out, will for certain never be heard. God delights in using the small things of this world, and He can use our voices to reach those He longs to draw to Him. Even if only three people read our blog--if they are the people God has brought to us, how exciting is that?

As Christian authors, our art has a different purpose than writing for our own pleasure or the pleasure of our readers. When we write, we also write for HIS pleasure and HIS purpose. What an extraordinary thought. If the only audience we have is the audience of THE ONE, isn't that all that matters?

When I think how our Christian brothers and sisters are struggling, suffering and dying under the oppression of ISIS, the perils of the Christian publishing industry in the United States pale in comparison, do they not?

One day we will face our Lord on the other side of eternity, and He's not going to ask us why we didn't make the best-seller's list. But we will give an account for how we used our gifts to reach a lost and dying world (Matthew 25:14-30).

Just because you're not published with a traditional company doesn't mean your writing doesn't count. If you don't have an agent, that doesn't mean your writing isn't legitimate in God's eyes.

Keep writing. Lives are at stake. It's not about ego or pleasure. As a Christian author, it's about redeeming the time we've been given to share the most important message of all: God's grace and His soon and coming return.

What will you do today to fulfill the call?

 Karla Akins is the author of The Pastor's Wife Wears Biker Boots and narrative biographies for children. She currently serves as Vice President of ACFW-Indiana.

When she's not writing you can find her on her motorcycle looking for treasure.

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