Here’s an odd story that hopefully won’t start a trend: author Jazan Wild is apparently suing HarperCollins over the use of the title Carnival of Souls, and now the Bookalicious review site says it has received a cease and desist letter regarding its review of a book with that title.
It’s well known that you can’t copyright a title, but the trademark route is a different matter. Wild’s Carnival of Souls was published in 2005 and seems to have been pretty popular. HarperCollins, meanwhile, released an unrelated novel with the same title, written by Melissa Marr, just a few days ago. However, as Neil Gaiman has noted, the title has been a number of times before: there was a 1962 film called Carnival of Souls, and a remake in 1998; also, in 2006 a Buffy the Vampire Slayer tie-in novel had the same title. Wild’s trademark was acquired in 2006.
Trademarks have to be defended in all situations, otherwise they can be considered abandoned, which might explain why the cease and desist letter was sent to Bookalicious. How that squares with the prior instances of the term’s use remains to be seen. Meanwhile, HarperCollins subsidiary Epic Reads – which publishes the Melissa Marr book – says it will defend itself against the lawsuit. Commenting on the Bookalicious post about the cease and desist letter, Wild defends his actions and says he’s standing up to HarperCollins. If his case succeeds, are we going to start seeing a battle to trademark titles across the board?