1. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    What Trademarks Can We Get Away With?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by lostinwebspace, Nov 9, 2011.

    I'm wondering what exactly we can get away with when mentioning third-party properties. I've got the following things (among others) and I'm wondering if these are all right:

    I mention "he narrowed down the yellow guy in the kitchen" (Clue)
    I use celebrity names such as Denis Leary, John Lee Hooker, James Brown
    I reference a Chaka Khan poster
    I mention someone wanting to beat their high score in Frogger
    Someone asks for a Kit Kat bar
    I mention someone's Seinfeld tapes (yes, cassettes) get erased, and the line "No soup for you"
    I display Pac-Man in one scene
    I refer to someone as a Connect Four master

    My question is...exactly what can we get away with? Can we mention things in a sly way (like my Clue line above) but not say outright what the product is? What things mentioned in passing can we get in trouble for, even if they're just mentioned (no opinion or defamation is given)?

    Does anybody have any advice or want to read through something to see if I'm on the safe side?
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    all of that is done all the time in fiction, so don't waste any more 'wondering' time on it...

    titles of copyrighted works and/or names of characters therein and trademark registered names/phrases can be mentioned in passing at will, without permission and with no legal repercussions, as long as you're not denigrating them enough to be sued for doing so...

    here's what you should read [browse through] to be on the safe side: www.uspto.gov
     
  3. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    Whoa. That is one huge site. Where should I be looking? I clicked around for a few minutes but didn't find anything.

    I still have some references in gray areas. I know you do mentoring. Do you do mentoring for specific questions such as this? If I can't find an answer on the site for some of my gray areas, is it okay to send you some lines or descriptions of how I use some of these properties?
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    check the 'faq's in the 'trademark' section...

    and it sure is okay, lost guy!... you can email me any time...

    hugs, m
     
  5. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    You're awesome, mammamaia. I'm going to check out the site and any more questionable stuff, I'll ask in an e-mail. I've gone over my list (thankfully, I had at least the marginal wisdom of listing every property in a Word doc) and it seems I'm safe on most, but there are still some "gray area" mentions. Keep in mind this is a work off off-beat comedy, so some of these might be wacky or out of left field without context.

    Thanks again! :D
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you can get away with more in comedy than you can in drama, but it's still best to be cautious and familiarize yourself with the rules 'n regs first...

    email me for info/advice/help any ol' time... that's what i'm here for...

    hugs, m
     
  7. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    Thanks for the link. I checked out the link and also did a Google search for copyright information in "laymen's terms," as well. I think I stumbled more on the legalities of using an exerpt (ex. a couple lines of a song or a book, fair use-type stuff) in my own work, but I got some information. Still, when I looked at those law-related sites, I was somewhat confused. Legal issues aren't my strong suit. (I took a law class a few years ago and probably learned more Latin.)

    Is it still okay to ask you some things via e-mail? I've got an e-mail together with some questions, some of which have answers that might be obvious. :confused: I think some are, but part of me needs confirmation. I can send you the e-mail once I get home tonight.
     

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