1. zaphod

    zaphod Member

    Jun 12, 2009
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    Questions on trademarks and real places/businesses

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by zaphod, Dec 12, 2009.

    I'm sure this gets asked a lot, but its something I'm ignorant about.

    I do understand the premise of a trademark as being protection for a commercial brand from being used by a competitor and assuring consumers that a product is the real deal.

    The thing I want to know, is to what extent or degree a writer may use the name of a real-world business in writing. Naturally I mean in a neutral non-derogatory fashion. My story takes place in a realistic present-day setting and I would love to subtly describe it by sprinkling in things like "It's next to the empty Walmart". With these six words one immediately has an image of a specific kind of area within an older suburb or small town.

    Of course I've read plenty of stories where this is done, never mind things like newspaper and online reviews of restaurants and stores. But is that under some kind of fair use principal, or are the rules hard and fast and I can know I am doing things right(or wrong)?
  2. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Nov 21, 2006
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    Coquille, Oregon
    'fair use' does not cover fiction that's written to be sold... learn about that, along with all the ins and outs of the copyright and trademark laws here: www.uspto.gov

    basically, you can use any brand name, or business name freely, in your fiction, as long as you spell them correctly, since they're public entities... as you've noticed, it's done all the time... but if you malign them in any way, they can sue you...

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