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View Full Version : Mentioning brand names in fiction -- do I need ™ symbols?



Barb D
06-24-2009, 06:38 AM
My character has a pocket with a Velcro™ closure, and wears an Under Armour™ T-shirt. Do I need to put ™ symbols in the book? My niece, a newspaper copy editor, thinks I do, but I don't think I've ever seen a ™ in a piece of fiction. To me, it would seem distracting.

Anybody?

BenPanced
06-24-2009, 07:58 AM
Always use a Velcro closure or wear an Under Armour t-shirt. Never use a kleenex to blow your nose and never, ever xerox a copy of the poem you just wrote. When mentioning a brand name, always use the item as the qualifier (Velcro closure). You run the risk of a stern reprimand if you use a brand name as the generic equivalent or a verb ("kleenex" instead of "tissue" or "xerox" meaning "to photocopy" or "a photocopy machine"). The tm isn't necessary but implied when you're following these rules. They're necessary for a company to maintain their brand presence in the market, which they can lose if they don't vigorously enforce their trademark. Aspirin was once the brand name of a pain reliever and Cellophane was a plastic wrap. Now they're generic terms for a type of pain reliever and a type of plastic wrap.

benbradley
06-24-2009, 08:15 AM
At least in non-fiction books (I'm thinking "The Hacker's Dictionary" which lists probably several dozen trademarks, everything from Kleenex to Star Trek, on the copyright page) I've seen this (using the name with the TM symbol) done on the copyright page where acknowledgments are given, and then wherever the term occurs, it is of course capitalized, but without the TM symbol. I think that's the standard way to do it, fiction or non-fiction.

Devil Ledbetter
06-24-2009, 05:37 PM
My character has a pocket with a Velcro™ closure, and wears an Under Armour™ T-shirt. Do I need to put ™ symbols in the book? My niece, a newspaper copy editor, thinks I do, but I don't think I've ever seen a ™ in a piece of fiction. To me, it would seem distracting.

Anybody?The generic term for VelcroTM is hook and loop. I'd never use a TM or (R) symbol in fiction. I find the capitalization of somethings, like Dumpster, jarring enough.

Is it really important to mention the specific brand of t-shirt? Is it really so different from all the other t-shirts out there that it needs to be pointed out? More importantly, does the brand of t-shirt have any bearing on the plot?

Richard White
06-24-2009, 06:11 PM
In Czech, they have a special form to turn a foreign word into a verb

To use the telephone - telefonovat
To send a telegraph - telegrafovat
To take a photograph - fotografovat

To make a photocopy - xeroxovat

So, technically to xerox IS a verb in Czech and I believe other slavic languages.

happywritermom
06-24-2009, 09:42 PM
I was a full-time journalist for 11 years at a medium-sized metropolitan daily. We never used the symbols. The only rule was that you capitalize it. I use Thermos in my novel and I don't use the symbol. Trademark protection is the company's problem, not yours. It's not like you are using the term to name some new product you're selling.

Kitty Pryde
06-24-2009, 10:01 PM
Always use a Velcro closure or wear an Under Armour t-shirt. Never use a kleenex to blow your nose and never, ever xerox a copy of the poem you just wrote. When mentioning a brand name, always use the item as the qualifier (Velcro closure). You run the risk of a stern reprimand if you use a brand name as the generic equivalent or a verb ("kleenex" instead of "tissue" or "xerox" meaning "to photocopy" or "a photocopy machine"). The tm isn't necessary but implied when you're following these rules. They're necessary for a company to maintain their brand presence in the market, which they can lose if they don't vigorously enforce their trademark. Aspirin was once the brand name of a pain reliever and Cellophane was a plastic wrap. Now they're generic terms for a type of pain reliever and a type of plastic wrap.

Interesting. Does my character have to drink a can of Coke soda or a Mountain Dew soda? Can he be a fan of Arsenal, or must he be a fan of Arsenal football club?

I've been thinking about the use of brand names in my new WIP a lot. The MC is a teen, and while he is studiously non-trendy, branded things seem to creep into his life anyway.

Fokker Aeroplanbau
06-24-2009, 10:08 PM
You're not going to need it, if Max Barry can incorporate all the crazy stuff he does into his novels - 'n' not get ripped off then you likely can too.

The Lonely One
06-24-2009, 10:11 PM
I've never, ever, ever seen "tm" in a fiction novel.

I've frequently seen brand names appear. ("The Pepsi Corporation" is the last one I remember seeing.)

So. I wouldn't bother.

Ken
06-24-2009, 10:17 PM
... cool that this topic came up. I just used a 'TM' in a story: Marlboro(TM). Guess I'll take it out, now. Does look rather silly in fiction.

BenPanced
06-24-2009, 10:27 PM
Interesting. Does my character have to drink a can of Coke soda or a Mountain Dew soda? Can he be a fan of Arsenal, or must he be a fan of Arsenal football club?

I've been thinking about the use of brand names in my new WIP a lot. The MC is a teen, and while he is studiously non-trendy, branded things seem to creep into his life anyway.
Point taken. I may be misremembering or misinterpreting the rules I've read. I'll stand by capitalize and don't verb, however.

KTC
06-24-2009, 10:29 PM
NOTM

Salis
06-24-2009, 10:48 PM
I'm going to start my own brand names in my novel.

John was tired, so he went to sleep(TM).

maestrowork
06-24-2009, 10:57 PM
No need to use the ™ or ® or © symbols in fiction. It's understood those names such as Coke or Pepsi are trademarks. The ™ stuff just looks odd in fiction.

The Lonely One
06-24-2009, 10:58 PM
No need to use the ™ or ® or © symbols in fiction. It's understood those names such as Coke or Pepsi are trademarks. The ™ stuff just looks odd in fiction.

Yes. Unless it's purposely comical. Even then I think it's a bit on the cheesy side.

KTC
06-24-2009, 11:05 PM
Yes. Unless it's purposely comical. Even then I think it's a bit on the cheesy side.

Unless it's cheese on the sideTM

benbradley
06-24-2009, 11:14 PM
Trademark protection can be a real Monster™.

KTC
06-24-2009, 11:17 PM
Trademark protection can be a real Monster™.

Yes, but free advertising is HeavenTM

maestrowork
06-24-2009, 11:20 PM
Freaks™ ® © 2009 maestrowork

Devil Ledbetter
06-25-2009, 12:34 AM
Interesting. Does my character have to drink a can of Coke soda or a Mountain Dew soda? Can he be a fan of Arsenal, or must he be a fan of Arsenal football club?

The key not to let brand name rules push you out of the point of view you're using. If your character would never think of Arsenal as "Aresenal football club" then it's unthinkable to foist that into his POV for the sake of keeping Arensal's lawyers happy.

As someone else said, it's the company's problem. Part of my job is to see that our company's trademarks are used correctly. I wouldn't even bother going after misuse in a work of fiction. Too much abuse of a trademark and you might get a letter from a lawyer. Oh my. Seriously, I wouldn't sweat this stuff. Just stay in POV. Otherwise, you will toss the reader out of the story with thoughts of "Now here is one author who is terrified of being sued."

blacbird
06-25-2009, 01:13 AM
I very seldom write anything that requires a trademarked name. Mostly, it doesn't matter to me as a reader whether a character is drinking Coke or Pepsi or Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper. What purpose is served in informing the reader that the character wears an Under-Armour t-shirt? Hell, I probably don't even need to know he's wearing a t-shirt at all. I might make an exception for some very fine vintage wine or really expensive car, if that had a bearing on the character or the story. But generally, I find brand-specificity superfluous, and sometimes just damn annoying. Especially if the brand is some really specialized thing I don't know. Don't assume your readers know everything about brand-identification that you do.

Same goes for celebrity-identification.

caw

BigWords
06-25-2009, 03:40 AM
I've seen it done a few times, always badly. The worst offenders by far are the books which are published to cash in on a hot trend, and I'm almost positive Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers had the TM symbol in at least one book.

If it isn't necessary to the plot, do you really need the brand name in your story?

KTC
06-25-2009, 03:42 AM
If my character is drinking a coke, by god I'll say he's drinking a coke.

Barb D
06-25-2009, 03:42 AM
Thanks, everyone!

My character goes to some lengths to hang on to his T-shirt after time-traveling to 1526, because it's his favorite Maryland Terrapins Under Armour shirt. Any other shirt just wouldn't be worth the effort. :)

I doubt the Under Armour company would be in any way upset by this mention.

(FWIW, my son is heading off to Maryland in the fall, and his Under Armour shirts hold a special place in his heart.)