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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am using brand names (apparel and perfume) in my upcoming novel, and the mention is completely positive.  I used brand names is to engage the reader, and give an idea about tastes and preferences.

Can there still be issues with using brand names?
 

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It's possible there could be an issue, I suppose, but unlikely. Most writers seem to use brand names this way. Just make sure you capitalize trademarks-- for example, it's not jello, it's Jell-O, and people don't put bandaids on cuts, but Bandaids.
 
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The issue of brand names has nothing to do with whether or not the reference is positive or negative per se. The issue is whether or not the use can dilute the brand or if it will create confusion in the marketplace or if you commit libel.

Brand dilution: You've probably heard this before, but it bears repeating. Your characters can't use a kleenex. The have to use a Kleenex tissue. You don't make a xerox of a document. You make a copy on the Xerox copier. When referring to brands, you have to refer to them correctly. In general, that means proper capitalization of the brand name followed by the item type (where applicable). You don't need to say they ate at a McDonald's fast food restaurant. You can just say they at at McDonald's. Your character can drink a Coke, but not a coke. Your character can eat a Big Mac, but not a big mac. It has to be clear that you are in fact referring to a specific brand and not using the brand as a generic term.

Market confusion: Less of a problem with fiction than non-fiction, but you need to avoid implying or inferring that the book is endorsed or supported by the brand name. Would anything in your book lead a "reasonable person" to believe that the book was produced by, approved by, or endorsed by the brand?

Libel: This is the tricky one. Remember, anyone can sue over anything...even if they are wrong. Nothing can protect you from a cease-and-desist letter or a DMCA take-down notice if someone wants to be a royal troll. Corporations in particular abuse the take-down notice and cease-and-desist letter all the time. There is no disclaimer you can put in your book to protect you from a crazy or unreasonable person. That said, you need to make sure that nothing in your book could be construed by a "reasonable person" to imply that you are making defamatory statements about a person or brand. You can have a murder occur at your local WalMart. But I would avoid having the plot involve all of Walmart's upper management involved in a cover-up to prevent the media from discovering their use of child labor in Singapore. See the difference? If your murderer always wears Axe body spray, that's OK. If you imply that the Axe body spray caused an allergic reaction that led to the murderer having a psychotic episode that lead to the murders, well, I think you see the point.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thankyou both of you, for your detailed explanation.  My main leads, hero and heroine, go to Macy's and Gap (etc) in the mall, and buy clothes with much delight.  He buys "First" perfume for her, and she goes to the Mac counter in the mall to buy a lipstick.

I don't see brand dilution, brand confusion or libel .....  Do you?
 
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