EDIT ME — Trademark Names

quote mark

Today I’m talking trademark names. What are they?

These are everywhere. McDonald’s, Nike, Jack Daniels. These brand names belong to a company, and when you use that word, you’re borrowing it.


So is it legal?

For the most part writers can get away with using these words. You can have a man wearing a Nike sweatshirt run into McDonald’s and start a fight with the employees because they don’t serve Jack Daniels.

Some publishers will make you remove all traces of trademark names, though. That means your hero can’t drive a Dodge Ram. He has to drive a pickup. Publishers are covering their butts, and they have to. In an age when so many people are happy to waste money on lawyer fees, it’s better to be safe than sorry.


What about Indy writing? Some authors use trademarks, others don’t. My take is do what you feel comfortable with. You could also include a trademark names list in the front of your book, which is a way of reminding people that you don’t own these words.

A general rule is:

Don’t use the trademark in a derogatory way or cast it in a bad light.


Example: His John Deere tractor was a real piece of shit. They all were. That’s why he only purchased FarmAlls.

John Deere really doesn’t want their brand run under the big old tractor wheel. They could contact you and demand their brand is removed from your story. They could also sue, and it’s not worth it.


Moral of the story: Think before you write it. And always remember that a pair of Wranglers on a cowboy’s butt is a very, very good thing. 😉


Thanks for reading,



2 comments on “EDIT ME — Trademark Names

  1. I do use trademark products in my books, but never in a derogatory way. I believe that’s common courtesy. If I want to run something down, I invent a name for it. When you use the product names in a flattering way, shedding good light on the product, it’s seen as free advertising. I also have a list of trademarks in the beginning of my books both published and self-published. It’s best to be respectful. After all, would a writer want their character used in a negative light in someone else’s book? i don’t think so.

  2. My series is set in the 1980s, so I use a lot of brand names, some of which no longer exist. One of my books, however, my editor insisted I remove all brands. It nearly killed me to do so, but since the others had the pop culture references, I figured my readers would know which brands were preferred by my girls and took them out.

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