That’s right, there are authors out there breaking laws without knowing it, and you might just be one of them. I’ve been seeing a lot of advertisements by indie authors lately, which is great–but I came to the abrupt realization that some of these authors may be breaking the laws of trademark without knowing it. The reason? I’m seeing more and more authors utilizing the trademark logos of those vendors that currently sell their novels. This struck me because many of these vendors hold strict trademark laws over their logos, and they are even more strict on letting people use these logos. While I am sure some of these authors may have received permission from the companies, I highly doubt many of them have (the advertisements lack the disclosure materially required by the vendors). The process of approval of using a trademark involves a tedious process that just wouldn’t be worth the effort for a two day sale when you can simply use the name of the company. Now, you may be wondering, why do they care so much that I use their logo? They sell my books after all! Yes, they do sell your books, but their logo represents dollar symbols for them, and not only that, it represents an implied endorsement of that trademark. Trademark can be tricky, while you can mention a name of a company in your novel (see THIS article for the specifics) as long as it’s not in a disparaging way, using it in an advertisement is a completely different animal. This is especially true if you have your name next to it. Here are the specific requirements of book vendors you may be using:
Amazon used to completely forbid the usage of their trademarked logos for Kindle and the Amazon.com website, but they have became a tad bit more lenient. When I say a “tad bit”, I mean it. They allow it, but they sure as hell won’t make it easy. They are “excited” to offer you the ability to do it if you jump through hoops. Now, let me preface this with the fact that I have not personally attempted to do this, as I don’t run sales for long enough that the time involved would be beneficial. If you’re an author who has contacted Amazon and received permission, please be sure to leave a comment below about the process and the ease or difficulty of it. Amazon’s very specific guidelines are listed below and you can view the entire article by clicking any where within it:
These Guidelines apply to your use of trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. and/or its affiliates (“Amazon“), including AMAZON, KINDLE, KINDLE FIRE, the AMAZON KINDLE logo and the KINDLE FIRE logo (each a “Trademark” and collectively the “Trademarks“). Strict compliance with these Guidelines is required at all times, and any use of a Trademark in violation of these Guidelines will automatically terminate any license related to your use of the Trademarks.
Amazon reserves the right, exercisable at its sole discretion, to modify these Guidelines and/or the approved Trademarks at any time and to take appropriate action against any use without permission or any use that does not conform to these Guidelines.
Now, number four is where this all becomes very tricky for the author. You want to put their logo on your advertisement and in any way you shake that, it pretty much amounts to an endorsement. Then there’s number five–another key to the fact many of these authors are breaking trademark law–you have to give ample space between other symbols. The fact is, Amazon doesn’t play nice with Barnes & Noble, and for that matter, Kobo, or anyone else. The final nail in the trademark infringement coffin? Number Seven! Each book vendor requires the same disclosure for each of their trademarks with their names disclosed–in a small advertisement where you want to give your novel presence, you would be giving more presence to disclosure for trademark usage. Furthermore, upon more research there are logo guidelines that also must be adhered to and give size, colors, etc that can be used (see HERE). The good news is, as an author selling through their digital media, you become exempt to the written authorization requirement as long as you use their approved logos (see HERE) and use the words Available For or Available From while still adhering to the above quoted usage regulations.
BARNES & NOBLE-
I wasn’t able to find any information relating specifically to advertisements that was outside of their normal terms and conditions. These Terms and Conditions are agreed upon when you sign up for Nook Press. Below is the portion on Trademark (for the full Terms and Condtions see HERE)
Barnes & Noble.com, Barnes & Noble, Inc., or their respective parents, subsidiaries, or affiliates, or third parties from whom Barnes & Noble.com has permission, own the trademarks or service marks that are used on the Barnes & Noble.com Site. All rights are reserved. These and other graphics, logos, service marks, trademarks and trade dress of Barnes & Noble.com and its licensors may not be used without prior written consent of Barnes & Noble.com or its licensor, as the case may be. Without limiting the foregoing, no Barnes & Noble.com trademark or trade dress may be used in connection with any product or service that is not Barnes & Noble.com’s, in any manner that is likely to cause confusion among Users, or in any manner that disparages or discredits Barnes & Noble.com.
It’s safe to assume that Barnes and Noble operates it’s logo and trademark usage much like that of Amazon, with the exception that it may be even harder to receive permission to use the logo. It appears that there is no exemptions as is allowed on Amazon on the written agreement requirement.
Unfortunately, the most guidance I found was to look at the Kobo Brand Guidelines, which I found on the ABA, but wasn’t able to open without joining and paying a fee. Again, it’s safe to assume that their business operates under the same guidelines of other major booksellers.
Head spinning yet? Now, if you’ve violated this– you may just get a cease and desist order, or you may never hear anything at all (a lawsuit could occur, but it’s cost-prohibitive, so the most you will probably get is the order). What you do risk is readers, agents or publishers that do know these laws seeing you as being less professional, when you were only attempting to appear more professional. In the end sticking with the simple usage of the company that your books are sold at is easier, and leaves less room for reputation risk for your brand as an author. You can still create a killer advertisement without those logos, and in all honesty, if you sell at more than two retailers, the logos just clutter the advertisement and take away from your goal– intriguing the reader and getting them to “One-Click” your novel.