1. HollyWriter
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    HollyWriter New Member

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    Using Brand Names in novels

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by HollyWriter, Mar 16, 2012.

    My book is about a singer/songwriter who wins a Grammy and plays a Taylor guitar. Is it okay for me to reference these by their brand name? I tried writing the Grammy scene generically, but it just comes off as hokey. Maybe I could give it another name and in my characters' universe that's what it is called? But it always irritates me when I read books that do that. Some brands are so well known that any attempt to change them comes off as lame. And the Taylor guitar is sort of a play on my MC's last name, sort of important to the story with themes of destiny and such.

    I know it's fiction, but im just trying to be as authentic as I can. Any thoughts on using brand names in fiction?
     
  2. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    I don't see anything wrong with it - people regularly reference everything from Kleenex to Steinway pianos to Tupperware. In stories you'll find Stop&Shop and Goya and Sears and any number of other stores. The only things to look put for are:

    Don't reference something so obscure only a few people will know what you mean, because the rest will think you made it up, and when you've put forth everything else in the story as totally plausible, they'll be put off.
    Some companies might want you to ask their permission. I sort of doubt it, but you might want to be sure; anyway you wouldn't have any such problem until you publish it and your editor if you have one would know.
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    The only thing you need to be careful about when using real names is that you not write anything that could be considered libel, or infringe upon a trademark, and it sounds like you're nowhere near either of those. I am currently reworking a novel in which several middle-aged musicians get together to form a band to help one of the members. I use brand names throughout. I want a sense of authenticity (most musicians I've played with are gear freaks at heart). Also, any reader with a knowledge of the items I mention will get an extra kick out of it.
     
  4. Imprive
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    Imprive Member

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    Hmm well once I read a book called "Jennifer Government", it was set in the near future where corporations ruled, and everyone who worked at a corporation had to have their last name changed to that corporation (hence the name Jennifer Government). The author frequently used names like McDonalds, Nike, and companies like that. At the beginning of the book was a disclaimer that was longer than normal (it was also humorous), in which was explained that any real company or product names used in the book were for literary effect only (this was in addition to the standard disclaimer).
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's done all the time... just take heed of edfromny's info/advice...
     
  6. Cosmic Latte
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    Cosmic Latte Member

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    I would get a letter from Taylor with stating you have their permission to use their trade name. It might seem innocent enough, but incorporating it is promoting their brand -- and they may have some ideas on how they want their guitar represented. At the least, nothing might happen if you don't, but at the most it could protect you from a potential future lawsuit. A lawyer or your future future editor can help clear this up for you.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that's totally unnecessary... brand names aren't copyrighted and even though trademark protected, that only means you can't have a business or a product with the same name, if it's similar to their business/product...

    as long as you don't write anything derogatory about the product or company, you've nothing to worry about... it makes no sense to spend good money on attorney's fees for this... especially since if you snag a publisher for the work, their own legal team will make sure you're not at any risk...
     
  8. Cosmic Latte
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    Cosmic Latte Member

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  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I don't see anything in this reading that contradicts what mamma or I have said above.

     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that!... it just says it in many more words than are really needed... but then, the writer is an attorney, so that's to be expected:rolleyes:
     

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