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Are book titles subject to copyright protection?

In general, book titles are not eligible for copyright protection. The U.S. Copyright Office views book titles as “short slogans,” not intellectual property. The underlying theory to this notion is that there may be other instances where the same or a similar title is equally appropriate.

As a result, we are left with books such as Garden of Beasts by Jeffrey Deaver and Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. Both novels take place in 1936 Berlin, however one is fiction and one is not. Read those synopses carefully before purchasing a book.

There are always exceptions to the rule

This would not be a legal topic if there weren’t exceptions to muddy the waters. If copyright protection is not an option, you may be able to register a title as a trademark. Books that are part of an ongoing series sometimes receive trademark protection. For example, ‘Chicken Soup for the [blank]’ is a registered trademark, as is ‘[blank] for Dummies’. Perhaps the most famous example of trademarked book titles are those in the Harry Potter series. 

What should you do if you want your title to be unique?

For starters, you can perform a simple internet search of your potential book title and you can check the corresponding book listings on Amazon. Additionally, to ensure that your title isn’t copyright or trademark protected, performing a search through the U.S. Patent Office can eliminate any speculation.

If you believe you may have a title that falls within the copyright or trademark exceptions, please speak with a lawyer at The Wang IP Law Group, P.C. We can perform copyright and trademark searches and address any other intellectual property needs you may have.

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