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Let’s explore Sarah J. Maas’s trademark applications

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The Trout Nation Discord has been positively aflame discussing the recent trademark applications filed by author Sarah J. Maas’s company, Fireheart, inc. (“There’s a Trout Nation Discord?!” you may be asking yourself. Yes, there is, and no, you don’t have to be a Patreon patron to join it).

What is Maas trademarking?

A screen shot of the US Trademark office's website, showing "Velaris" "Feyre" "Throne of Glass" "Illyrian" "Nesta" "Suriel" "Bryce" and "Umbra Mortis" listed as pending trademarks
A screen shot of the US Trademark office's website, listing "Fireheart", "Sarah J. Maas", "Lunathion," "ACOTAR," "Rhysand," "Hunt Athalar," "SJM," and "Aelin" as pending trademarks.

Ever since Cockygate, authors have been pretty suspicious of trademarks. Sarah J. Maas’s popularity has, inexplicably, grown into such an unstoppable juggernaut that trademarking some of her IP is a necessary step, and in some of these cases, not an overreach. As members of my Discord are currently discussing, there’s a real problem with conventions and events that freely market to fans of Maas’s books, even going so far as using imagery and names from her books to sell high-priced tickets.

An Australian company, Celestial Events, offers “unique events taking inspiration from some of our favourite authors.” But these “authors” seem to be pretty solidly just Sarah J. Maas (with the exception of the “Celestial Riders Gathering” that is clearly seeking to cash in on Fourth Wing‘s fandom). While these aren’t named quite so brazenly as the “Velaris Starfall Ball” in the US, a peek at the Eventbrite pages for these events feature photos of cosplayers in recognizable “Bat Boy” get-ups and references to “Under the Mountain” and an invitation to “meet up together and make the historic journey to Mass-Verse [sic]”.

You can really feel the dedication to fandom when they can’t bother to get the author’s name right. Totally not a cynical money grab. Definitely just a celebration of a cherished and beloved author.

These events usually feature professional cosplayers interacting with the guests, and as the Discord discussed…that’s not always a great thing. I know from my experiences at the now-defunct Romantic Times convention, things go bad when a very attractive man, who gets paid to be attractive, is introduced to an environment where he expects that every single woman in attendance will welcome his sexual advances. Because of incidents that took place at past romance conferences, an event organizer I know refuses to allow cover models to attend her events, even as a guest. It doesn’t take a huge leap of logic to imagine that dropping a Rhysand or a Tamlin into one of these unlicensed book parties could be monumentally unsafe.

The exorbitant ticket prices for these rip-off “bookish festivals” (The already sold-out Valeris Starfall Ball, which doesn’t even bother to be coy about the IP they’re infringing on, charged over $400 USD a head, while $366 USD will get you into any of the Celestial Events parties) demand protection of the author’s brand. While the fine print on these unlicensed conventions admit that there is no affiliation with the author, it’s impossible to overestimate just how much that doesn’t matter to the average fan. If someone pays $400 to go to an event branded as an ACOTAR ball and it turns out to be (please, please forgive me for the pun I’m about to make) a Feyre Fest debacle, that could reflect badly on Maas. Think of the recent “Willy’s Chocolate Experience” in Glasgow; while they didn’t expressly use Wonka trademarks, the books and movies are now inescapably tied to memes and jokes that tarnish the brand. This won’t sink a beloved children’s classic, but Maas’s success is still very new. While she’s teflon in bookish spaces (where readers simply don’t care about things like, for example, using Breonna Taylor’s death as a marketing gimmick), she hasn’t quite reached household name status yet. Outside her too-forgiving, ever-excuse-manufacturing fandom, if her books were linked to a scam, or a high profile sex crimes case involving a hired Rhysand hit the press, she could face even more backlash than her own shitty antics have earned her already.

Fan created merchandise has also been a long-running, unofficial arm of the Maas brand. If you own a Cricut, you can cash in mightily on Etsy by applying your fanworks to everything from journals to glassware, and market these specifically as ACOTAR products. This is something Maas has been open to in the past, but these filings seem poised to put a swift end to unlicensed fan merch. Which makes sense when we take into account the heat she got over a subscription box including unlicensed soap designed and molded to represent, I shit you not, Rhysand’s erect penis. The viral scandal can be credited with relaunching the “is it YA?” debate and reinforcing the reductive “fairy porn” label that has bafflingly attached itself to these incredibly tame fantasy romances.

While these are all very real concerns and a great reason to file for trademarks, when I investigated these trademark claims…some of them are absurd overreaches designed to grant Maas legal rights to things that don’t belong to her. Much like Cockygate, we’re seeing an author seeking trademarks to things she’s simply an asshole to try to claim.

Let’s look at them one at a time, from a layman’s perspective. I’m doing research here, including consulting people who are definitely more knowledgeable in this than I am, but corrections, especially from people with degrees and who specialize in Trademark and IP law, are so, so welcome in the comments. However, keep in mind that some of these remarks are just opinions on whether or not it’s ethical or even just rude to trademark some of these things, a la the Cockygate debacle (for example…should Maas really have the balls to trademark Bob Marley’s middle frickin’ name?). I don’t conflate morality with legality, so if I say, “It’s shitty of her to do this,” that’s not me claiming it’s not legal. Just shitty.

(Note the bold, red text before you continue. I’ve had a few really awful things sent to me on social media from people who skim, rather than read, and hurt their own feelings.)

This solves the issue of something like the unlicensed Velaris Starfall Ball, since it’s filed under class 41, which specifically covers “organization of balls, party planning” But they didn’t include that in their uses, and I’ve found conflicting answers regarding whether or not statement of intended use is more legally binding than a complaint that use of the mark will cause unreasonable confusion. But it will shut down the ability of that event to put its name on swag bags and other merchandise related to these events, as well as preventing unlicensed jewelry, candles, blankets, t-shirts, basically anything that could be fan made.

Thank god there’s only one Feyre. Maas’s trademarking of this name shouldn’t be a problem for anyone but the babies named Feyre, if they grew up to own a billion dollar makeup company. I would be interested to know why they didn’t include actual paint in their uses, though. They claimed class 2, but didn’t include paint under uses. If I want to go out right now and create a Feyre branded watercolor palette, Could I? I mean, if I could even paint with it. And I know I never could paint it.

Throne of Glass
This one is another no-brainer. If granted, one of the uses is simply “books.” You could not title your book Throne of Glass. And while you might be thinking, “It would be pretty silly to give your book a title that could be confused with a much, much more popular book and potentially risk the ire of ultra-protective fans, you’d be shocked at how many people would do just that. Titles aren’t protected by copyright, so this is a necessary step.

Absolutely not. She was not responsible for the creation of Illyria or Illyrians, as the Illyrians were an actual civilization written about in history books long before Maas could even read. It’s pretty fucking bold to want to claim that you’re the only one who can use that word ever again in a book or on physical products.

Maas’s claim on this is absurd and insulting. It’s Bob Marley’s middle name. Bold of Maas to assume that it’s hers for the taking, especially in books. However, the trademark on the word Nesta was granted in other categories for other uses, so if anyone wanted to make a “Nesta’s Ball” event, they’d be violating someone else’s trademark, and that trademark holder would have to pursue them accordingly.

Suriel is literally an archangel that has been written about for centuries in mythology and folklore. This is another one where claiming the word can only be used in her books is beyond the pale.

What the entire fuck. If this is granted, woe unto thee who might have a personalized necklace made, or who wants their name embroidered on a bag.

Umbra Mortis
Considering the number of perfumes and candles with this name, themed specifically to Maas’s work, this makes sense. But it’s pretty shitty to claim it for video games, when there’s already a video game titled Umbra Mortis.

Another wordmark claimed for use in books that is predated by other media. This is getting tiring, honestly. Is it fair, if other authors have used “Fireheart” as character names or titles, for Maas to claim it as her sole property? As stated above “fair” and “legal” aren’t in the same ballpark, but god damn, is this disrespectful.

I was expecting to find out that this was some kind of common Welsh name, but it does appear to be of Maas’s own invention. Knock yourself out, Sarah. I wish you well.

Hunt Athalar
This is really the name of a character in one of Maas’s series. That’s a choice she made. But she does seem like the first and only person to use it, so trademarking it, in my mind, seems fine. In fact, it protects other authors from using that name, a move I fully support. Because what in the 1990s paranormal romance fuck?

Another case of a name Maas seems to have thought up. Trademarking it seems reasonable and fair.

Bill Compton, she’s coming for your monogram. One expert I consulted described this application as “a waste of money and time,” as they believe the trademark office will reject it on the basis that… it’s just a bunch of letters and the application for the wordmark in any possible font or text is too broad. If it were more narrow, like a specific logo, the trademark would more than likely be granted. So, this is an interesting one to watch.

This one makes sense. She made it up, but unlicensed merchandise bearing the name is everywhere. If I were in her shoes, I’d trademark it, too; imagine a Lunathion make-up palette that blinded its users, or a Lunathion candle with too high an oil content that’s responsible for burning someone’s house down. Though Maas wouldn’t be legally liable, having her IP connected to unregulated products would still link her and her books to these events in the public mind.

I’m of two minds about this. ACOTAR is an abbreviation that was first thought up by fandom. Is this something that anyone could hold a trademark for? Or is it in such wide use already that it would be the same as trying to trademark “omegaverse”? Speaking of which, do not use “Alpha’s Claim” as a title; while searching “Omegaverse,” I found it as a registered trademark. But I’m also aware that ACOTAR is synonymous with Maas’s brand. If you’re heavily involved in any kind of fandom (because I’m not sure any ACOTAR fans hang out here), I’d love to know your take in the comments.

Sarah J. Maas
I think you know exactly what my opinion on this one is. If possible, trademark your author names. Trademarks are prohibitively expensive for most authors, but protect your name at all costs. If Sarah A. Maas rises from the depths, could Maas sue them if she’s granted this trademark? I hope so. I hope that’s how it works. Because people who use similar names for grasping, career-building purposes are more disgusting than the expired Walmart meat Joe Exotic fed his employees. They are the hair clogging your drain after you wash your dog, who rolled in something rotten and messy. They are the human equivalent of accidentally touching used gum under a table at a Panera Bread. Get ’em, Sarah. It will be the only time I root for you.

While I loathe Sarah J. Maas as a person and as the author of misogynistic, racist, homophobic bullshit novels built almost entirely out of other people’s IP, I’m interested to watch where this goes, what the reactions will be outside of fandom, and how this affects the industry. What do you all think?

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  1. bewalsh7

    I have no expertise in trademark law or regulations. From a completely laymen’s perspective, I agree with the points you made. Some of the names make sense for her to trademark. Others, not so much. I just hope that whomever is granting trademarks is wise enough to avoid things like Bryce and Nesta. I mean, really? I have a cousin Bryce. And I sure don’t want to get in trouble because I got him something personalized.

    March 14, 2024
  2. AEP

    Aelin is an actual name that predates SJM’s usage. 100% agree and hate when authors try to trademade names they have no claim to if it was the full name e.g Nesta Archeron then sure but just Nesta or any of the first names she has not created…. Nah! And don’t get me started on Illyria/Illyrian or even Suriel (it’s literally from the bible). Also find it really cheeky when authors try to profit from something the fandom create e.g ACOTAR.

    March 24, 2024
  3. Ann Doe
    Ann Doe

    Not to mention her blatant plagiarism of Anne Bishop (pub 1998) with the Eyrien race, Prythian, etc.

    March 29, 2024
  4. Jen

    Rhysand is definitely a real Welsh name.

    April 6, 2024
    • Person

      Yep, they’d better not let her copyright that! People are more likely to name their babies just Rhys on its own, but still. It means “enthusiasm” or “passion,” btw. Who wants to bet she picked it for the second meaning there? Also, Aelin as a spelling of the Turkish name Aylin means “moonlight”/”halo,” and Maas shouldn’t be allowed to copyright that, either.

      May 2, 2024

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