This Came Up Recently – Using Brand Names in Stories

I had a short story I sent to an editor recently. In that story, I had people from the future go back in time and one of the things they did was buy the IPO of a certain brand name technology stock. I’m not currently using the products of that company, I use a PC. The implication from the way it was used was that the company in question would still be a thriving company a hundred years in the future. My editor, rightfully, discussed a concern about using the exact name of the company in the story. I was of a mind to use the name anyway, especially since I didn’t say anything bad about it.

Still, I felt better when I read this blog post.

Can I Mention Brand Name Products in My Fiction?

While it was written in 2010, I would imagine that the principles still hold true. I’m going to quote a bit from that post.

Writers frequently ask whether they can mention brand name products and services in their fiction.  The answer is “yes,” provided that you take some common sense precautions.  Indeed, if it were unlawful to include brand names in fiction, countless product references in Bret Easton Ellis’s novel Glamorama would have been expurgated, and David Foster Wallace could never have described in Infinite Jest an alternative present where large corporations purchase naming rights to the calendar years (e.g., “Year of the Whopper,” “Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar,” “Year of the Perdue Wonderchicken,” “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment,” and “Year of Glad”).

The four areas of law to consider in connection with brand names are “trademark infringement,” “trademark dilution,” “trademark tarnishment,”and “defamation.”

If you were wondering about this question, I hope this article helps you as much as it helped me.

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