Last week I had the less than delightful experience of getting an email from Amazon. They were pulling one of my books because someone had reported a Trademark infringement.

As you can imagine, I was mortified but couldn’t understand what had happened and how it happened. However, this is just one of four examples that I personally have encountered in the last year, where someone else’s intellectual property was infringed.

So, in this post, I’m going to set how 4 ways you could infringe someone else’s intellectual property, without realising.

But let’s start at the beginning.

What is Intellectual Property?

WIPO (The World Intellectual Property Organisation) defines it as:

…creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.

IP is protected in law by, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create.

WIPO website

Intellectual Property covers everything therefore from painting and photographs to books and magazines and inventions.

What is an Intellectual Property infringement?

An IP infringement occurs when a person or a business uses someone else’s IP asset without permission.

So what are the four Intellectual Property infringements that you could do as a self-publisher?

1. Using quotes without permission

The law on copyright of quotes is very complicated depends on when and where the quote was made, whether the person is alive or dead, how long they’ve been deceased and any number of other factors.

If you’re going to quote someone else, start by making sure that you have attributed the quote to the right person. Then check to see if they are alive and whether you need permission to use their quote. 

Remember, if you’re using a quote in a book intended for publication, then you will be making a product with the intention of selling it, so if the quote is copyrighted and that copyright is still in place, then you would be advised to seek permission to use that quote. 

For this reason, I tend to source quotes from people long dead!

So, how did I get caught out?

Whenever you write a book and include some summary point from another book, then it’s only fair to cite your sources and give the person the credit that they were due. I misnamed a book I cited in a journal I wrote. I had copied it from a different source when I was researching the topic and that person had put the incorrect name of the book.

The author of the cited book went as far as scheduling a call with me to ask me to correct it.

2. Embedding a font without a license

You know that someone had to create the fonts that we use, right?

Well, the ones that we use in word processing programmes etc. are licensed to the companies that made the programmes, however, when you embed a font into a books manuscript, you are essentially packaging up with the document so that it goes with it.


I’ve bought fonts and installed them on my pc, so I never thought about the fonts already installed there. However, when someone posted about it in an authors group, I suddenly found out that the Times New Roman font isn’t an Open Source Font, and that you need a license to use it. That license is already build into your Word Processing programme, so as long as you don’t embed the font in your document, then you’re ok.

3. Using the wrong image license

Every photographer that takes a photo owns the copyright to the image. Some people will upload them to sites like Unsplash and allow people to use them in exchange for a shout out or attribution of the image.

Other people will upload them to websites like DepositPhoto’s. People pay a fee for one of two licenses: their standard or extended license. The problem occurs because of how the line between the standard and extended license is drawn.

So, how did I get caught out?

Well, I had used a license in a notebook that I had published on Amazon. The image was used as the book cover, however, when I checked with DepositPhoto’s I found that they considered a notebook and planner as stationery, not a book and so an extended license would be needed.

As this was significantly more and I was unlikely to recoup the cost, I simply made a new book cover with Canva Pro. They even have some of the same images as DP, but their license gives you full commercial use and only has the one license.

If you plan to use an image for your book cover or in your book, do check the license for the image you’re using or if you can, use one of your own.

Don’t forget, if you get professional photos done, that photographer has the copyright of the image, so do check what you can use the image for.

4. Using someone else’s trademark without permission

This one surprised me.

I know that you cannot copyright either a book title or a book plot, however, what some authors and publishers are doing instead is registering their book title as a trademark.

I knew that this had been done with the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book, but what I hadn’t realised that Bullet Journal® had been trademarked.

I’m not the only one.

Apparently many people were surprised that it was even allowed to be trademarked given how wide-spread the term had become.

So, whilst my book was taken down, I could re-issue it under another name. I could call it a Bullet Point Journal, a Dotted Journal and a Dot Matrix Journal. I just couldn’t call it a Bullet Journal®.

So far, I’ve been lucky. 

Each time it was an unintentional mistake and was quickly remedied, however, Amazon are becoming much more stringent in checking the legitimate copyright and licenses of the books published on their platform.

Several years ago, I was actually a victim of IP. Someone took one of my ebooks, slapped a cover on it, with my name on it still mind you, set up an account on Amazon and tried to sell it.

As you can imagine, I was horrified, so I don’t have to imagine how someone else would feel if it was done something similar to them.

I guess at the end of the day, the first rule of life applies here: treat others how you would want to be treated.

If you think you’re not going to get caught, then trust me, you will. I did! So check your own books if you need to, and from this point onward, treat other peoples Intellectual Property as you would want your own to be treated.

You may also like to read: How do I make a self-published book look professional?

Please note: I’m not trained in the law and I’m not offering legal advice here. This is based on my own experience.

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