Harlan Ellison registered his name as a trademark in 2001. I learned this yesterday and it made me wonder if that was a regular thing among science fiction writers. My search on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website shows it is not.
Heinlein and Asimov, the two Americans in science fiction’s Big Three, were trademarked posthumously, Heinlein by the trustees of the Heinlein Prize in 2011, and Asimov by his estate in 2000. Asimov’s marks, registered for use in connection with science products, science toys, and educational materials and services have since been abandoned.
Beyond them, I found nothing. I tested several other writers’ names, picked for their marketing savvy (if this was a good idea, surely they’d have done it) or commercial success or historical significance. There is no record of a trademark application for the names of John Scalzi, George R. R. Martin, Robert Silverberg, Mike Resnick, Connie Willis, Orson Scott Card, John W. Campbell, Gardner Dozois, or even Philip K. Dick. So this is not something everybody does.
But during the past decade or so Ellison, through his Kilimanjaro Corporation, trademarked his name and several other properties (some now lapsed) — Working Without A Net (2000, cancelled), Edgeworks Abbey (2001, live), Edgeworks (2002, cancelled), and Dangerous Visions (2006, live).
Working Without a Net by Harlan Ellison first appeared as a book Ivanova was reading in an episode of Babylon 5. Ellison later gave the title to a weekly series of commentaries he did for Galaxy Online in 2000. Finally, in 2008, Ellison told a radio audience he has signed with a “major publisher” to write his memoirs, tentatively called Working Without a Net.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]