1. ScottM84
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    ScottM84 Member

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    What are the rules for using trademarks in a book?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ScottM84, May 15, 2014.

    I've read in the past that it's permissible to use trademarked words and phrases in a book without permission as long as it's not a critique of the brand. Since I'm currently writing a story set in Canada, I'll use Tim Horton's as an example since it's already come up in my fledgling first draft. So, using that example, a character asking if she could go to Tim Horton's wouldn't be a trademark infringement, correct? Also, whether that's true or not, are there any particular rules I need to keep in mind about trademarks?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Yeah, you're right. As long as you aren't saying bad things about a company, you can mention that your character drank a bottle of Coke or something along those lines.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...yes, that's correct...

    ...no specific rules... only the common sense/courtesy advice to spell and capitalize the brand names correctly...

    ...companies that insist on having the 'tm' symbol included [e.g, Kleenex] have no legal clout to enforce that, or to exact a penalty for not doing so... thus, you can certainly use them without the symbol, as is so often done in fiction...
     
  4. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    But what if your character has a low opinion of a particular company? Can't he/she say, "Oh God, I've always hated [insert brand]" or is that not allowed?
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I don't think it's a good idea to do that.
     
  6. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Eh, it depends. If your character just hates Coke, that's fine. If your character claims Coke causes cancer and goes on and on with a theory, then that could be a problem. But that would be one of libel or slander or other suit involving intentional harm to the brand. It wouldn't be a trademark issue. Trademarks are about protecting the brand -- the likelihood of confusion or dilution of an established brand name.

    Libel is different. That's the sort of thing you'd be more likely to be sued over, rather than trademark, in a writing context. And then, they'd have to show some sort of real harm or actual potential for harm. A single character not liking the taste or whatever is unlikely to do that. (Although, as with all things legal, it depends on numerous factors.)
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    liz is right... you need to acquaint yourself with the basics of copyright and trademark law:

    www.uspto.gov
    www.copyright.gov
     

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