So, in everything from World of Warcraft to Dungeons and Dragons, even Warhammer and an assortment of other games, both table top and computer based, there's Arcane magic. I've written a few books and, without thinking, I used the term Arcane to be the general name for magic practiced by witches and warlocks and prayer magic used by the clergy. I never thought about it until now, but is Arcane, or Arcane magic, a copyrighted word/phrase/term?

To clarify, the spells in my work aren't direct copies of any from those other games, it's simply the usage of what I at first considered a generic word. Could there be trouble down the line?

Examples of spells used in my work: Portal magic to move across large distances, "energy beams" for combat purposes, and magical infusion.

Not entirely sure if this is the best place for this question, but I'm just wondering if there's any danger of it becoming problem down the line. Also, I apologize if I'm misunderstanding the usage of copyright, but as a relatively new author, I'm trying to make sure I'm not setting myself up for trouble in the future.


No, copyright protection does not exist for single words or even short phrases: see this. A word can be protected, in a certain context, by trademark. To take one example, the word "Apple" is protected in the domain of computer products, because Apple computers has registered "Apple" as their trademark, and you can't then start selling a line of computers named "Apple". You can however sell fruits called "apples", or you could sell knives with that name (unless someone has registered "apple" as a brand of knife). There are currently 45 "classes" for trademark protection.

"Arcane" is a normal word of everyday language (YMMV), which means that there is relatively little protection for the word, as contrasted with "Microsoft", a word created by that company. It is unlikely that the courts would recognize "Arcane" as being distinctive. You can search the trademark database here: there is nothing for "arcane magic", and little for "arcane".

  • If your business becomes sufficiently successful, the court may accept an application for trademark. – kevin Jan 9 '17 at 22:11
  • @kevin, it doesn't merely need to be successful. It needs to be so successful that the word or phrase is associated with your company's goods or services, and has lost its generic meaning. – Mark Jan 10 '17 at 2:27
  • Thank you for your informative reply and for setting my mind at ease. – Steve1222 Jan 16 '17 at 20:17

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