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#CockyGate2: Forever Boogaloo

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In a story that’s getting weirder and weirder by the minute, it appears that someone has filed for a trademark for the word “forever” as it relates to all titles across all genres in print, e-book, and publishing houses.

The author? Heidi McLaughlin, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Forever My Girl, recently a major motion picture and one of the specimens entered on the application.

And yup. This case is just as big a banana split as Faleena Hopkins’s trademark of “cocky”. But in a whole different way. See, McLaughlin claims that the trademark has been filed by…an impersonator?

A face book comment that reads: "We are asking specific questions on this post, and we are not being given clear answers. Please clarify. Did you or did you not consent to this trademark application? Are you implying that you are being impersonated? Did you give permission to Marisa to file?' Followed by a response from Heidi McLaughlin: "1) No. 2) Yes. There is someone going around posing as me. They have been around for some time and it's been a battle trying to get them to stop. 3) She didn't file it. Only two TM's were filed on my behalf. My name and series title."

The “Marisa” referenced in the post is McLaughlin’s agent, Marisa Corvisiero, of Corvisiero Literary Agency, who McLaughlin states did not file the trademark on her behalf:

A FB status from Heidi McLaughlin: Things you should know... 1) My business name is Books by Heidi McLaughlin, LTD - it's very public, used on my PayPal and all over my platforms. 2) My series title - The Beaumont Series - filed as well. 3) My name - I filed to protect this, see #4 4) Impersonation IS NOT a form of flattery. 4a) Not my filing, nor associated with me, my business or representation 5) Why would I TM my publisher's name? Doesn't make much sense now does it? 5) While everyone is so quick to jump the gun, to bash me, my agent and the post I saw about my "spoiled ass kids" grow up. Stop and ask questions."

But while McLaughlin insists that the filer does not represent her, Corvisiero Literary Agency’s website still shows McLaughlin as a client and the application has Marisa Corvisiero’s law firm listed multiple times as the person seeking the Trademark.

Though McLaughlin claims that Corvisiero did not file the application, Corvisiero stated on Twitter:

A tweet from Marisa Corvisiero: "Yes, I see that a clarification should be made as many rumors are floating around. I assure you, any legal filling submitted from me as an attorney wasn't not an activity of my agency, was fully authorized by the legal client, and made within the legal rights of the client."

The confusing wording of “wasn’t not” aside, Corvisiero claims her “client” authorized her to file the trademark. The client being the entity listed on the application, Wicked Literary LLC.

So, who owns Wicked Literary LLC? McLaughlin hasn’t answered when asked if she’s the owner, and the LLC is registered by American Incorporators LTD, a service specializing in establishing LLCs. Does McLaughlin own Wicked Literary? That’s kind of a dead end. It could be a shell corporation set up by McLaughlin or Corvisiero. Or could it be, as McLaughlin claims, an impersonator?

For the moment, Corvisiero isn’t answering any more questions on Twitter. In comments on her Facebook status, McLaughlin has dodged straightforward questions from confused readers, insisting that she has been impersonated and the trademark was filed without her permission. Both have said that they’re looking into the situation.

At the time of writing this, neither have said that the trademark application will be challenged or withdrawn.

Now we come to the part of the blog post where I ask some questions and say some shit.

I believe that people impersonate authors. It happened to me when my second book came out. A woman in South Carolina was pretending to be me, going into bookstores and signing stock, and even wrote a fanfic that she passed around on MySpace as the first draft of the third book in the series. She was only caught when a man she’d begun dating sent an email intended for her to the email address on my website. My publisher and agency had to send C&Ds. It was a mess.

In my case, the woman was doing it for self-aggrandizement and attention. She had something to gain, no matter how weird. I want to know what someone has to gain by setting up an anonymous corporation and filing a Trademark application, both of which come with fees in the hundreds of dollars, then either fraudulently representing themselves as an agent or as an agent’s client. Trademarking a word that applies to an intellectual property that one doesn’t own in the first place won’t actually result in a monetary profit. Nor could you brag about owning the trademark if you committed fraud to get it.

McLaughlin’s readers are already formulating theories that range from Marisa Corvisiero being a stalker to the mysterious impersonator being another author who is jealous of McLaughlin’s success and seeking to use the momentum of Faleena Hopkins’s fall from grace to destroy McLaughlin’s reputation. But all of this seems very far-fetched if the following questions remain unaddressed:

  • How did someone manage to impersonate McLaughlin convincingly enough that her own agent didn’t question it?
  • How was there never a point where Corvisiero and McLaughlin communicated about the filing via phone or email, which would have cleared up the impersonation confusion?
  • Why would Corvisiero admit to filing the trademark on her client’s behalf if that client, Wicked Literary LLC, had no claim to the intellectual property that would be defended by the trademark?
  • How would Corvisiero not be aware that Wicked Literary LLC was in no way affiliated with McLaughlin?
  • What motive would Corvisiero have to knowingly apply for a trademark on McLaughlin’s behalf through a totally unrelated entity without McLaughlin’s permission?
  • Why would Corvisiero take actions that could lead to disbarment, the ruin of her agency, her own credibility, and possibly jail time?
  • Why would McLaughlin make a serious, possibly career ending accusation against Corvisiero by saying that Corvisiero acted without her consent?

Though McLaughlin’s fans are already blaming bullies and haters (who are in fact simply people asking questions that have arisen through McLaughlin and Corvisiero’s conflicting statements) there are red flags all over. It doesn’t look good that McLaughlin came out of the gate claiming that her children were being attacked (these attacks do occur frequently in online disputes, but usually when a situation has escalated and not at the beginning of the social media response), nor do her repeated Facebook responses referencing pitchforks (alluding to persecution by an angry mob), especially considering that these were similar actions taken by Faleena Hopkins in her defense. Yes, it would be very upsetting to find that someone had taken those actions on one’s behalf without one’s consent, but directing anger at the people bringing the issue to one’s attention and asking for straight answers, instead of at the person who took those actions, makes a person look like they have something to hide.

At the time of this post, McLaughlin also hasn’t answered simple yes-or-no questions regarding whether she plans to challenge the trademark or whether or not she owns Wicked Literary. These are much easier questions to answer than inquiries people have made regarding the involvement of law enforcement over the impersonator or whether she intends to sue Corvisiero, fire her, or contact the New York State Bar Association (all questions no one should be expecting answers to at this time). Simply saying, “No, I don’t own Wicked Literary LLC,” or “Yes, I plan to challenge this fraudulent application,” would make McLaughlin appear a lot more credible. Withdrawal and refusal again make it seem as though she has something to hide.

As it stands, based on the actions of McLaughlin and Corvisiero, it looks very much as though McLaughlin did seek the trademark and simply tried to hide her involvement through the use of a shell corporation. Then, when she threw her agent and attorney under the bus, her plan backfired. But McLaughlin needn’t worry; she has a legion of fans already demanding silence over the issue and insisting everyone believe she’s innocent despite her odd response and unwillingness to answer questions that have easy, cut-and-dried answers. Niceness, as we all know, will induce people to cover a multitude of sins on your behalf.

McLaughlin has stated that she’s trying to fix the situation. To drama-weary eyes, it looks as though she’s more interested in fixing the fallout from being caught.

UPDATE: McLaughlin made the following statement on her Facebook page:

A FB post from Heidi McLaughlin:This morning, I woke up, faced with an onslaught of disparaging posts, tags, private messages, which were mostly positive so I thank those who sent them. This all happened while I was driving my dog to the groomers, so I pulled over to find out why my phone was blowing up so early in the morning. The sheer fear and anxiety, to be once again social media fodder, is really the worst feeling I have ever felt, aside from losing my brother and grandma. However, I responded in haste, without verifying all my facts. I really try to do good things in life. Volunteer, donate to reputable causes, and support my peers, so to damage another author, is not how I operate. My agent and I discussed trademarking my brand. This was essentially important because there is someone out there who poses as me, giving interviews as me, etc... who has been dealt with numerous times. So when I found all this out that was my first assumption. And while I asked you not to make any, I did, based on what I’ve had to deal with when it comes to this other being. Know this as truth and fact – my agent acted on my behalf, trademarking my brand and my name. The result: a miscommunication on my part. I’m not an evil person. I never wish harm on anyone, wish for them to fail or desire to stop them from doing anything. That’s not my nature. It’s not who I am or how I function in life, despite what people are saying who don’t actually know me. The application in question, as I’m being told, is in the process of being canceled, withdrawn or whatever has to be done. I am truly sorry to have ruined your Wednesday. Due to irrelevance, my other post is gone.

Due to the high level of “poor me, I volunteer, I donate to charity, people in my life have died and it made me very sad,” in her post, I’m officially not buying that it was a mistake. Maybe that’s unfair of me. Or maybe it’s because we see this canned victim reaction whenever someone’s scheme falls through.

UPDATE THE SECOND: An anonymous source sent me the following screenshots, wherein McLaughlin asks Alessandra Torre’s “Inkers” group where they chose to set up their LLCs:

Heidi McLaughlin: "Authors with LLCs - how did you decide what state to open your LLC in?" The first response says: "Missouri because I could use my in laws pO box. The second response says: I used to work in an accounting department for a consultant company, Delaware is one of the better states to open a LLC and unless something changed, still is because of the no state income :D A finance/accountant should be able to help let ya know."

Whether or not McLaughlin is asking or stating because she didn't use any punctuation, but her reply is: "You don't need an address in Delaware" and someone else responds, "Delaware has major tax benefits, as well as business friendly regulatory protections (Chancery court system). You just need a DE Registered Agent (which you can find online for prob like $100-$200 annually). They receive and make sure you receive important tax related correspondence etc. (and more importantly, they're required for out-of-state businesses. That said, I set mine up in NY for no reason I can fathom other than a physical address lolol.

These posts were made in January of 2018. Wicked Literary LLC is registered in Delaware.

So…

kiiiiiiiinda looks like this wasn’t a miscommunication and she’d been planning this for months on her own.

UPDATE 3: Because I apparently can’t read, the Wicked Literary LLC was set up in January of 2017, which is even more confusing. So, the LLC isn’t owned by McLaughlin, but she was looking to set up an LLC in 2018 and the Wicked Literary LLC is the entity seeking the trademark. I’m still going to say that this seems as though she may have been planning this, but that she doesn’t own Wicked Literary LLC.

UPDATE 4: A different anonymous source sent me the following screenshot:

A reader asks McLaughlin: "Heidi, you come across as a caring person, and I'm glad I saw this post. Your motives seem miles away from those that birthed #cockygate, yet I was guilty of jumping to conclusions, determining that, as a reader, I would never read your books because of attempting to TM one word. Having another writer impersonate you certainly requires some kind of action to protect you. No idea what legal advice you have available, but I bet @kneupperwriter and @CourtneyMilan (twitter) would have some advice. Now I'm off to check out your books and I wish you the best of luck! [heart emoji]" McLaughlin responds: "They're not US based. It's much harder, I've found."

First of all, nice job offering the services of those attorneys? Don’t do that.

Second, McLaughlin needed to get the U.S. trademark to protect against an impersonator…who isn’t in the United States and isn’t subject to U.S. law.

Still not adding up.

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36 Comments

  1. Also what agent would agree to try and trademark a word for their client? Something is not adding up here.

    May 23, 2018
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  2. Emersyn Vallis
    Emersyn Vallis

    If it was by mistake why did it take 5 days and the writing community to catch it and have it taken down? Also, why have we not seen the trademark for her name or the series name? It’s a big jump from her name, to the series name to one word. That’s not a miscommunication, that’s a f*ck up. And she’s sorry she ruined our Wednesday? Just be sorry. Like she replied in a post “no one will ever say sorry to her.” But the only thing she’s sorry for is ruining a Wednesday. Just be transparent about stuff. If you did it, say you did it and apologize. It’s a forgiving community when you say sorry and mean it.

    May 23, 2018
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  3. Stella Price
    Stella Price

    Publicity Stunt. Straight up. Everything you said here I said this morning reading this shit. though I think it has to do with her movie coming out to muted applause. She KNEW people would pick this up and mention the movie (like you did). Maybe she thinks it will help it alone (though I’ll watch a real Nick Sparks flick before I watch her flick.)

    And I don’t believe that the agent would do a TM like that and then let things get chalked up to miscommunication. None of this makes sense.

    Feels like someone got caught, and tried to back track.

    May 23, 2018
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  4. Due to blatant lying, my other post is gone.

    There fixed it for you Heidi.

    May 23, 2018
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  5. shel
    shel

    Oh yes, definitely something is fishy… but sure, blame it on miscommunication.

    What was the miscommunication? Well, we could trademark my specific series name… but all my lawyer heard was the forever part…

    I get wanting ownership of her series, even Faleena whoserface would have been fine with me to trademark “the cocker brothers” but such a common word in literature, like Cocky or even worse, Forever, is so ridiculous.

    I definitely can see the ploy for attention, or the… well lets try it, cause I heard of someone trademarking Cocky (assuming all of this was filed before Faleena’s shit blew up) and if I could get Forever, think of the people we could go after!!

    I’m glad this has also blown up in her face.

    May 23, 2018
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  6. Karen
    Karen

    The piece I am having a hard time to swallow is the cost. It is minimum $225 dollars per class to file. This had a lot of classes assigned. And on top of it is a 5 year back fee of $125 to go back to 2012. Sorry this is alot of cheddar for an impersonator to spend.

    May 23, 2018
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    • Preakness Everdeen
      Preakness Everdeen

      With those cost that’s a lot for a “miscommunication” as well. I don’t know how agents work but I’d like to think there would have to be some proper communication or money already provided for them to file on behalf of their client.

      May 24, 2018
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  7. Vivacia K. Ahwen
    Vivacia K. Ahwen

    Red flags all over the place, but “I am not an evil person” is the most cringeworthy.

    May 23, 2018
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  8. Piroska
    Piroska

    She actually hasn’t ruined my Wednesday. I haven’t had to watch my soaps in 3 weeks, due to the flutter of peacock tails (tales?)
    Seriously, though, this act-first, think (regrettably) later shit is getting old. Then delete, delete, delete some more. A non-apology.
    It isn’t funny. I find it quite condescending, as if I’m not intelligent enough to do *my* homework. Maybe other authors looking to tm words should do *their* homework. Read a little about trademarks. Catch up on the latest buzz and the tanking of writing careers. Maybe this will be a deterrent.

    May 23, 2018
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    • Yes. it’s all that backtracking. There’s an imposter, didn’t file. Okay well then, yes it was filed but there was a miscommunication. Also let’s throw in my dog and some dead relatives in there, my fans will think I’m wonderful and not a greedy asshat.

      I think these people are learning the power of the internet.

      May 25, 2018
      |Reply
  9. Evil!Blonde Bitch
    Evil!Blonde Bitch

    According to the way she placed the first two sentences, she woke up while driving to the dog groomers. Maybe she should get her narcolepsy checked out, because clearly it made her sleep through #cockygate.

    May 23, 2018
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    • Suzan Tisdale
      Suzan Tisdale

      I didn’t catch that the first time. My brain hurts.

      May 23, 2018
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    • Mrs. Dean Winchester
      Mrs. Dean Winchester

      Also, she received an onslaught of disparaging messages that were mostly positive. I just taught my grade 10 class about paradoxes and oxymorons. I suppose I can’t be too harsh on them for not understanding when a grown woman who does this for a living doesn’t understand the meanings of words.

      May 23, 2018
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    • Dove
      Dove

      I could believe she was still groggy while driving and used the phrase “waking up” in a more figurative manner but I refuse to believe she’d pull over for Facebook phone notifications. Just ignore them until after you drop off the dog if you’re seriously that tired. Maybe wait until after you’ve had your morning coffee. Also, it’s still piss-poor writing, even if that was her intent, which I’m sure it wasn’t.

      But yeah, seriously. She just got her pristine ass caught trying to offload into the punch bowl.

      May 23, 2018
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    • Anon
      Anon

      I’ve now been at work for two hours and I’m not awake yet!

      May 24, 2018
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  10. Lily
    Lily

    Eh, I read in my alumni mag today the editorial bleating of a published!!!!!!!!! author re: these scoundrels putting books on Amazon!!! directly???? to sell. Whatever shall we do? How can we enforce Good Literature and rid ourselves of this plague of unprecedented unprofessionals???

    My answer: I plan to copyright “the” and “and.” Let’s see anything being published after that, professional or otherwise.

    May 23, 2018
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  11. Nora
    Nora

    I call it B.S. She saw that in spite of Faleena gaining bad publicity, at least everyone was talking about her. Heck, buying her books to see what the fuss is about. I’m guessing that they had every intention to file and retract the claim, saying, ‘I’m sorry, my bad. See, I’m a good person by retracting it.’ Perhaps a rose coloured glasses view that by being perceived as an author making an honest mistake, they would then gain good publicity? Either way, whole thing stinks and now she’s caught with her pants down. My mother always used to say, to be a good liar you have to have an excellent memory…As for the imposter crap, I’m guessing she panicked and only realised how stupid it sounded after the fact. This is not invasion of the body snatchers! Who knows, she may go with she has an evil twin next.

    May 23, 2018
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  12. Flash Fiction

    The author drummed her fingers on her desk and stared at her computer screen as cockygate exploded all over social media. “I have a series to protect too. I know, I’ll do what she did…only I’ll do it better. I’ll set up an LLC in Delaware then have my attorney file the trademark application on behalf of the LLC. No one will suspect a thing.”

    “Tsk, tsk,” said the god-like narrator. “You are aware that trademark applications are public, are you not?”

    She frowned. “I already told you, I am not the one filing the application. A cute little Delaware LLC is. And you are aware that it’s difficult to discover who the principals are in a Delaware LLC, are you not?”

    The god-like narrator sighed. “Bless your heart. Do you honestly think a reasonable person will see that trademark application with all of your book covers on it and be fooled into thinking you aren’t behind it?”

    “Of course they will. I’m a good person. I do nice things. I have a well-groomed dog. And if anyone asks me, I’ll say I filed a trademark for my name and my series name, NOT a single word used in every title. ”

    “But, dear, those applications don’t exist, and anyone with a few minutes on their hands can search the USPTO database and see that.”

    The author shook her head and huffed, as if she were dealing with a very small child as opposed to a god-like narrator. “That is by design. Because if anyone does question the trademark application and they hold my feet to the fire, I will simply remind them that I am a good person and throw my attorney under the bus. She misunderstood me and didn’t file the applications I requested. Easy peasy.”

    The god-like narrator shrugged. “Let me know how that works out for you.”

    The End

    This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues in this short story are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.

    May 23, 2018
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    • Dove
      Dove

      I bet the dog only gets groomed once a year and never brushed. There’d be too much attention to detail otherwise. 😉

      May 23, 2018
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  13. Too many inconsistencies with the author’s FB posts today, first claiming she and her literary agent/attorney were ‘victims’ of impersonators. Now the agent/attorney says the author has withdrawn her trademark? If she was truly a victim, what’s to withdraw? So what’s the word? Victims or did they both realize that once RWA and the Indie Author Community got involved – an AHA moment and major back peddling? Each one has thrown the other under the bus and we’re left scratching our heads, WTF? Yeah, think I’ll just side with “they effed up – both of them”… SMH….

    May 23, 2018
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  14. People used to post fanfiction on MySpace? Well, there’s something I didn’t know.

    And just another author to add to my “Never Read” list. I’m too old to deal with this soap opera nonsense.

    May 23, 2018
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  15. Anon
    Anon

    She did it. She knew she did it. She lied. Now she’s sorry she got caught.

    But at least she admitted it (somewhat) and is withdrawing the application, so she’s at least better than Hopkins.

    May 24, 2018
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  16. Annie
    Annie

    Although the whole thing certainly seems fishy, the truth will come out eventually. I work with attorneys daily. There are really good attorneys and there are attorneys that are just shockingly incompetent. My experience is telling me two things: 1. she was likely advised not to say anything or answer any questions, even to defend herself. This can add to the suspicion, but really is the best thing to do when facing a potential legal battle. Guilty or innocent. 2. the fact that her attorney responded AT ALL is suspicious. She should not have. I honestly think it likely borders on a breach of client confidentiality. This makes me wonder what is going on with that attorney.

    I don’t know this author. Just wanted to state my perception from 11 years working with lawyers.

    I will be over here with my popcorn while the truth unfolds and have no doubt that you will get to the bottom of it!

    May 24, 2018
    |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      Do you think perhaps the author was advised to keep quiet by another lawyer? If she’s having trouble with her current attorney, I could see that happening? I thought the whole thing about impersonation sounded off but it makes me wonder if Marisa is the one causing trouble given her unusual attempt to save face when, as you noted, she probably should’ve remained silent. Pure speculation but it could be enough legal tangling that she might not be able to outright fire her until the loose ends are tied up?

      Of course, this is being super generous to such a convoluted story but your comment about incompetence made me think about the number of Cathys (workaholic version, I guess) that might have snuck into that profession. I could easily see a Cathy screwing up and then trying to protect her “good name” even though it’s the wrong thing to do.

      But that’s painting a really bleak picture and assuming a lot. The easiest answer is a publicity stunt or sheer stupidity (for all I know, the author could be a Cathy/Faleena.)

      May 24, 2018
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      • Annie
        Annie

        I personally think so, yes. Exactly and although her current attorney’s response was vague and didn’t really say a specific client, It is a strange response to accusations about her client. IMHO.

        I would think that IF the accused is innocent and either the lawyer royally screwed up or there is some crazy impostor, she would likely be forced to seek other legal counsel. And yes, I would suspect that any lawyers advice would be not to say anything. I don’t really equate silence with guilt.

        I honestly think the timing is suspicious, but people are quite crazy at times. I am still on the fence about what is actually going on with this one.

        May 24, 2018
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  17. Preakness Everdeen
    Preakness Everdeen

    Seeing that facebook post update made me roll my eyes a bit. Just as you said the overall “woe is me” it gives makes everything so suspect. If there was a miscommunication ideally wouldn’t you and your people clear that up before all that has happened in the time it took her to say “it was a mistake”. I’m trying to do the math and its clear something is just not adding up.

    May 24, 2018
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  18. abehr
    abehr

    Heidi McLaughlin is just as much of an arrogant, greedy, self-absorbed liar as Faleena Hopkins.

    On a positive note, my to-be-bought pile is shorter now.

    May 24, 2018
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  19. Amalthea
    Amalthea

    There is no way her attorney would file the applications without clear (likely written) instructions, and due to the fees involved, a retainer.

    May 25, 2018
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  20. First off, long time fan, Jenny; when I first started to read FSOG years ago, (never finished the series) and thought ‘da fuq?’, yours was one of the first blogs I came across that spoke about the same issues I had with it.

    I am also an erotica author; I’ve had some success but not an insane amount, and I am watching this and #cockygate with alarm. I read the transcript from court yesterday and wonder what’s going to happen, what the future will hold for Indie authors (in particular). If for some INSANE reason, Hopkins’ trademark is upheld (I cannot believe it was even granted initially), then we’ll see a flood of big publishing houses (possibly), trademarking everything they can and getting into a pissing contest. Small houses and independent authors will hardly stand a chance against that tide. I can’t help but wonder if Heidi and her people were trying to test the waters in a circumspect manner, to see if there was a way to do it with minimal damage to her brand.

    Frankly, it’s hard to know what to make of this; just the idea of it seems like sheer lunacy, but that two authors have actually taken the plunge… has the anger been so resounding that others will shy away or will they feel as if it is inevitable and begin claiming territory, as it were?

    June 8, 2018
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