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montysimmons, Patent Prosecutor
Category: Intellectual Property Law
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Experience:  Electrical Engineer, South Carolina Attorney, Member of US Patent Bar
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I have written a book that I plan to self-publish. The title

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I have written a book that I plan to self-publish. The title references an ancient historical city. As a for instance, let's say the title is, "The Coliseums of Rome". It isn't actually set in Rome, or really has anything to do with the city itself. The word Rome doesn't show up anywhere in the novel besides the title. I am simply using the city as a reference, as I feel it gives the story the "vibe" I'm going for.

Just recently, though, I discovered that "The Coliseums of Rome" (again, not the actual title) is also the title of a song from the '70s. The song shares no similarities with my story except the title. This song is actually about the city of Rome, whereas, as I mentioned, my book is not. I also discovered that a second band also had the same exact title for one of their songs.

I understand that you are not allowed to use a song's lyrics in a novel without permission, and I have no interest in doing this. But I'm a bit confused about the copyright surrounding song titles, because the title of the song (as with many songs) does show up in the lyrics.

Am I allowed to use "The Coliseums of Rome" as the title for my book, even though it's appeared as the title of two songs (that I know of) so far? Or is this risking some kind of copyright infringement/potential lawsuit? Because I am self-publishing, I am taking very great pains to avoid any type of legal issues, even going so far as to changing store names where some of the action in my book takes place.

Hello, thank you for your question.


Yes, a good title can help a book peak one's interest in a book; like making a good first impression.


Thus, selecting a good title is important.


Copyright Law


No problem here.


Copyright does not protect short phrases, names, or titles (such as title of books or songs).



Trademark LAW / Unfair Competition Law


If you are going to have problems, it will be with Trademark Law or Unfair Competition Law.


Trademarks protect words, logos, short slogans and just about anything a person/company can use that will uniquely identify the source of a product or service.


For example, if your title was: "Rome for dummies", you would likely have trademark issues as such a titles implies you have association with the "for dummies" brand.



Thus, just make sure your title is not confusingly similar to a brand already out there.



IF you are going to be publishing a series of works/books, consider a unique name and register your mark with the USPTO.






If you have any additional questions, please ask.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Yes, that seems to be the issue. Trademark. I don't believe I'll be infringing upon this, as the cover art for my book looks nothing like, say, the album cover that contains the song. Likewise the font or title. It was originally created specifically for my book, and running it through Google image shows no similarities to anything in Google.


Does the fact I'm dealing with two very obscure songs factor in? Or that, say, a place like Rome, with its cities, cannot be "trademarked" by anyone?

I would not worry about the titles of two very obscure songs.


The term "Rome" can be trademarked but not as a name of a city.


For example, "Apple" is a trademark for computers manufactured by a well known company. But this company cannot stop anyone from using the work "Apple" to describe anything but computers.


Same for terms such as "Rome".

montysimmons and other Intellectual Property Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you! I think I understand now.

You are welcome.

Come back if you need more information.

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