Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Phil Brown: A ‘Discover the Adirondacks’ Dispute

Discover the Adirondacks by Peter KickThe Appalachian Mountain Club recently published a multi-sport guidebook for the Adirondack Park, and one outdoor enthusiast is not happy about it.

Written by Peter Kick, Discover the Adirondacks covers twenty-six hikes, thirteen canoe trips, and eleven bike rides throughout the Adirondack Park, with accompanying maps and black-and-white photos. It also includes a number of short essays on natural and human history. It sells for $18.95.

With any book like this, of course, you can and often do quibble with the author’s choices. Did he really need to include Mount Jo and Cascade, which already see tons of traffic? Why didn’t he include any paddling options in the High Peaks Region—such as Henderson Lake and the Chubb River?

But Bill Ingersoll’s beef is with the book’s title.

As many Adirondack hikers know, Ingersoll publishes the Discover the Adirondacks guidebooks, an eleven-volume series begun by Barbara McMartin in the 1980s. Each book has Discover in its title: Discover the Eastern Adirondacks, Discover the Central Adirondacks, etc.

Ingersoll wrote a letter to AMC complaining about the title, according to Becky Fullerton, a spokeswoman for the club.

The U.S. Copyright Office says an author cannot copyright a book’s title. We asked Ingersoll about this in an e-mail.

“I have no comment on this matter, except to point out that this is not a matter of copyright, but rather trademark infringement,” he replied.

Our online research suggests that book titles rarely enjoy trademark protection, but series titles often do. The following is from the website of Lloyd J. Jassin, an attorney who specializes in copyright and trademark law: “Generally, titles of works that are part of an ongoing series are protected under trademark and unfair competition law. Once a series title such as Chicken Soup for the Soul becomes identified in the public’s mind with a particular author or publisher, unfair competition law kicks in to protect against consumer confusion.”

Fullerton said the Adirondack book is one in the club’s own series of Discover books, dating back to the publication of Discover Acadia National Park in 2000. Other titles include Discover Martha’s Vineyard and Discover Rhode Island.

AMC Publisher Heather Stephenson said the club was aware of Ingersoll’s series, but decided “it just made sense” to include the new book in its own Discover series. She believes there is room for both AMC’s and Ingersoll’s books in the market.

“We’re sharing the common goal of getting people outdoors and enjoying the Adirondacks,” she said.


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Phil Brown

Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack.

Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing.

He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.

Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.

6 Responses

  1. PaulK says:

    The AMC Publisher is on AMC’s payroll, so she sees it as a “common goal” of course. Mr Ingersoll is on Mr Ingersoll’s payroll.

    Poor judgement on AMC’s part. Their bad.

  2. Sam says:

    Barbara McMartin is a legend that has given so much to the Adirondacks. “Discover the Adirondacks” was the first guide that I purchased over 25 years ago when I moved to upstate New York. This is just poor judgment by the Appalachian Money Club in a region that they do not really care about or understand. Shame on them.

  3. Christine Lauri says:

    Appalachian Club should have better standards that this. Bill Ingersoll has great books and they should shouldnt be trying to steal his ideas.

  4. Pete Klein says:

    Words! You’ve got to love them and hate them.
    To me this is a tempest in a tea pot.
    Not a copyright lawyer but don’t see a problem with using one word in a title that someone else used in their title. The fact that the books have different authors and different publishers should be enough to alert anyone with an ounce of brains that they are different books.
    I guess those who would be confused by the one word in the title would be the same idiots who would get North and South America confused.
    One could play with the word copyright and think it mean you have the right to coy what was written.

  5. Pete Klein says:

    Forgot the “p” in “copy” and was not trying to be coy.

  6. Pablo says:

    “Discover” is a common word probably not eligible for trademark protection. Ms. McMartin’s books came out in the 1970s and much has changed. AMC is not trying to steal anyone’s ideas (ideas for what, a title, or writing about hiking and paddling themselves?).