Someone Filed a Trademark on the “Guy Holding Axe” Book Cover Design

If you found Faleena Hopkins’s attempt to trademark the word “cocky” infuriating then this next trademark could give you a stroke.

An author in the SPF Community FB group just brought my attention to a newly filed trademark. It seems someone is trying to trademark one of the fundamental designs for book covers.

Note: We’re not talking about a trademark on a design for a specific series but on the most broadly generic design possible. This is what was included in the paperwork:

Here’s the description:

The mark consists of a title and/or series name at the top of the trade dress; one or more human or partially human figures underneath, at least one of the figures holding a weapon; and an author’s name underneath the figures; wherein the title/series and author’s name are depicted in the same or similar coloring. The dotted lines represent the product, and are used to show the location of the trade dress on the product, and do not constitute part of the trade dress.

Most trademarks (not including other trademarks filed by this company) very specifically name the title or series that is covered by the mark. By leaving out that detail this filing is claiming to trademark book covers where someone is holding a weapon.

In short, I violated the trademark by creating the following book cover in Canva:

Okay, I didn’t actually violate the trademark because it has not been approved  – which is never going to happen.

The thing about trademarks is that not only do you have to use the trademark commerce in order to claim any right to it, you also have to be the first to use it. If someone files a trademark on a term that is already widely used then the application is declined. (Or at least it should be declined; Hopkins still managed to get her trademark on “cocky” – it has since been invalidated.)

In the case of the “guy holding axe” trademark application, there are so many covers with similar designs that there is no way that this trademark could be valid.

I mean, there are only like three or four thousand books with similar covers on the market; surely that is enough to show prior art.

P.S. And the same goes for the other trademarks filed by this company. It has also filed trademarks on terms including The Destroyer, Star Justice, and Dragon Slayer. Those terms have been used a few hundred times each, at least.

Book cover image by jepoycamboy on Flickr

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Ros Jackson19 July, 2018

    “One or more human or partially human figures” implies it doesn’t even have to be a guy. There must be quite a lot of prior art.

    1. Nate Hoffelder19 July, 2018

      I know!

  2. Jeffrey T. Spaulding19 July, 2018

    That’s author Michael-Scott Earle’s company.

  3. Miss M19 July, 2018

    Same Michael Scott Earle who had all his books yanked from Amazon a few days ago.

    1. Nate Hoffelder19 July, 2018

      Did he? I didn’t know that, thanks!

  4. Hut20 July, 2018

    Only his Audible titles are showing as live currently at Amazon.

  5. Ryber23 July, 2018

    Am I reading that link to trademarks411 correctly? Did they attempt to trademark Title/Series at the top of a book, and Author’s name at the bottom? Or is the trademark just on the guy holding axe? Because it certainly reads like they’re trying to trademark the order of book title contents.


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