View Full Version : When someone else uses your name

10-17-2004, 08:24 AM
Back in 1995 I first conceived of the novel I wanted to do. Ive been toying with it, focusing on short stories to hone my writing skills before I tackled something big. But since Ive noticed similiar or the same names in otehr works.

Alora--my female protaganist. `Elora` is the name of the child from Willow.

Bren--one of my male protaganists. CJ Cherryh used the name for a main character in his/her Foreigner series.

Jango---my talking falcon. No way I can use it now because of Star Wars Episode II, so Im thinking of using Jogo.

Thoughts on using/discovering duplicate made-up names?

Writing Again
10-17-2004, 10:59 AM
I googled the names:

Alora brought up 109,000 results.

Bren 338,000 results.

Jango 265,000 results.

No way can anyone claim these names as private property. If they were all from the same work or series there might be a problem, but as they all different works by different authors I don't see a problem.

You could always mention it to the publisher's legal department after you sell the book. The worst case scenario would be to make you change the names.

10-17-2004, 04:06 PM
I wouldn't have thought it's the legal angle that's important -- it's not as if you're talking about "James Bond" or similar famous copyrighted/registered character -- as much as whether these names will remind your readers of the characters in the books/films you've named? I'd change 'em without hesitation, just in case (and do, whenever I encounter the same problem, and/or when I've been told to by Ye Editor). What's in a name anyway? It's what your characters do that matters, right?

Er... pardon my intrusion. Just thinking aloud.


-----------------------My Web Page - naked women, bestial sex, and whopping big lies. (http://hometown.aol.co.uk/DPaterson57)

Writing Again
10-17-2004, 07:20 PM
Derek, you are right, the legal angle is not the most important. Addressing the legal issue was my first reaction, and first reactions are not always right.

The most important issue is to make your work stand out. You can't do that if your work has names that remind people of other works.

Thank you for the intrusion. It never hurts to be kept on track.

10-18-2004, 01:09 AM
No offense intended, but Alora, Bren, and Jango are fairly generic names (as Writing's search results proved). If I were you I would change them.

10-19-2004, 06:13 PM
The google search cant reflect fiction names only. I think it also includes words that contain `bren` etc. ANd I must state that sometimes names can have meaning, ex. Han SOLO, Ebenzer SCROOGE, Eric DRAVEN.

Still, I am working on new ones. I`m `refelling` the sense of my word, and definitely changing Jango anyways.

10-19-2004, 06:30 PM
No offense intended, but Alora, Bren, and Jango are fairly generic names (as Writing's search results proved). If I were you I would change them.

I recommend A'lora, B'ren and J'ango.


10-19-2004, 07:25 PM
I don't think names (even James Bond) or titles can be copyrighted, so I don't think legality is an issue here.

I started off my novel with my some of my characters (no kidding) named Athena, Amberle, Alex, Aetheron, and Ariran. It became obvious that I needed to change the names. Here's what I did.

I wrote the novel first.

You can get so hung up on the trees, so to speak, that the forest never grows.

Once the novel was written, I started toying with names. I looked in the bible for obscure names or words that sounded like they'd make good names, hence Ariran became Kiriath. I made up my own names, and Athena became Yeshanu. (Guess which character is the main one? :grin )

If you Google "Yeshanu," which I made up in my own head, you'll get lots of hits. My hunch is that anything that is pronouncable and sounds remotely like an actual word is going to get hits. So what? If it doesn't get any hits, and it's a fairly short name, chances are it's so foreign-sounding that no-one can pronounce it, and you want to avoid that.

I would avoid using names that are major characters in other people's fantasy or science fiction novels (if you're writing fantasy or sci-fi). For example, one of my characters is named Sardion, which is also the name of the evil stone in David Eddings' second Belgariad series. I'm gonna have to change that one...

But first, write the book, using names that mean something to you and are easy to type. Changing them later is a simple matter of "search and replace."

10-20-2004, 07:03 AM
About 15 years ago, I made up (I thought) the name Kendra for a character, which I thought was a great name. Then I found it was such a great name, it was a real one. I had to change it, since I hate authors who mix real and invented names. :huh

10-20-2004, 04:00 PM
Always google your names, people!

I had this ancient Persian character. I gave her a perfect ancient Persian name, wich is known in Zoroastrism, etc, etc. I fell in love with the name -- it was melodious and suited the heroine just fine, reflecting her personality... Then -- @#$%^! -- I googled it.

Virtually no hits mentioned the Persian origin, Zoroastrism, etc. But tons of hits about illegal drug use! The name turned out to be the name of a popular psychedelic hallucinogen... :grin

I say: always, always google your names, whether made-up or real.

Writing Again
10-20-2004, 04:06 PM
I don't think names (even James Bond) or titles can be copyrighted, so I don't think legality is an issue here.

Legality is an issue: The issues may be more civil than criminal. You cannot copyright a name, but it can be trademarked, and can have economic and proprietary rights attached to it. My mind doesn't seem to be coming up with the correct terms right now but the reasoning goes like this.

The people who own the rights to the James Bond series earn their living from this well recognized character with this well recognized name.

If you do something that lessens that income to them then you have harmed them.

If you earn money, etc, from use of that name you have in effect diverted some of their potential income from them to yourself, sort of like poaching from someone else's land.

If you want a complete and accurate explanation you need a real lawyer, not a guy who studied some law. I'm just posting this to make you aware there is a legal issue involved and before you jump into a situation that involves it you do need a lawyers advice.

Kida Adelyn
10-20-2004, 07:24 PM
The names Alora and Bren are fine. Using common names is Ok as long as you don't have other names that are obscure like H'vlakidamian or somthing in the same book. I would think about changing Jango though. Legality might not ba an issue but if the name is similar to a really famous real or imaginary person/character. But with the other ones it's ok as long as there personalities arn't the same as the characters, and they don't have the same last names.

10-20-2004, 09:19 PM
Fresie, you are so right.

My protagonist in my first (unpublished) novel is a guy named Jayson Nessmith.

When I saw Galaxy Quest I nearly fell out of my seat because Tim Allen's character's name in that movie is: Jason Nesmith.


I swear I wrote that name down for the first time over ten years before Galaxy Quest came out, and began writing the novel a year before Galaxy Quest's release. I have four books planned with generations of descendants and a religious cult all springing from my Jayson and using myriad derivatives of his name. Coming up with a solution for this is gonna be fun.

Flawed Creation
10-21-2004, 07:08 AM
I would say you're fine with Alora. i've seen it used several times, neough times that it has no specific associations for me. willow is, as far as I can tell, not something most people have seen. and i probably wouldn't have noticed if you hadn't pointed it out. (on an unrelated note, Willow is cool!)

Bren is a good name, i've never heard it used anywhere else, and it wouldn't bother me if i had.

Jango, however, i would advocate changing. given the insane popularity of star wars, people will definitely notice, and to me it's a much more distinctive name than Bren or Alora.

10-21-2004, 07:29 AM
Heh, the name of my lead character is RYDER Greene. I've been told by beta readers that it is a good name. Others have told me that a publisher might night like it due to the company name. Heh, the name was given me as a writing excercise, from which, I built a story. Heh, it would be hard to think of another name for the character after using it for one and a quarter books now.


10-21-2004, 09:14 PM
It's a fantasy... so why not make up a name by combining names together, like: Brenjan? Elorina?

Terra Aeterna
10-21-2004, 10:31 PM
After having a HUGE name freak out of my own (Somehow I missed that "Jothie" is the name of a semi-important character on the Sci-FI Channel's series Farscape (http://www.scifi.com/farscape/) ) I finally stopped hyperventilating and came to the following conclusion.

"Jothie" is a perfectly nice name that existed centuries before Farscape. My "Jothie" bears no resemblence to the Farscape character. I will change names on one condition: I sell the book and an editor tells me to change names. Otherwise, I'm not stressing it anymore. :grin

10-22-2004, 02:51 AM
If you still like the name "Bren," why not make up something longer and a little fancier for the given name, but use Bren as the nick.

10-24-2004, 06:34 PM
I might elongate Bren; I do want a short name for the character. However his roots are as a commoner and a fancy name doesnt seem right.

Jango is definitely going. I want the character to have `J` name, so maybe Jogo.

10-24-2004, 11:41 PM
Fancier as in longer. Bad word choice there on my part.

10-27-2004, 12:30 AM
Of actor, playwright, glory, fame,
"What's in a name," someone has asked.
If passerby be Abe or Cain,
Suffice to say, "A man has passed..."

Trying to remember the title of the book that came out of. Bloody Versicals, I think, and it was a collection of poems and songs from broadsheets from the 17th-19th centuries.

That said, names cannot be copyrighted. Names can be trademarked so that they cannot be used for any venture that earns money for the user.

However, if a gentleman by the name of James Bond walks up and has proof that's his real name, the Fleming Estate may find egg on their faces.

Names are tricky. I keep long lists of them in scrapbooks.

I used the name Socorro for an evil dude in one of my published novels, and to day, only one person has asked me if I knew that Socorro was a town in a southwestern state. :)


10-27-2004, 05:41 AM
When my An Age of Heroes series comes out, I wonder how long it will be until someone figures out one of the naming schemes I used? The first book should be out next year and the sequels are supposed to follow at regularly intervals, possibly as close as a month apart.

Writing Again
10-30-2004, 09:46 PM
A month?

11-08-2004, 09:36 AM
I tried googling various of my main names, and I was gratified that a large proportion of them returned zilch. A couple are surnames in different parts of the world, and one's a town in Italy, but there's nothing that makes me feel the need to change. There was one name I was sure wasn't going to get any results, and I was a bit dismayed when it got one. Till I realised that it was a posting by me on another fantasy board, discussing the character.

11-29-2004, 04:37 AM
I would think that especially in a fantasy or science fiction that has unusual names, i.e. names not seen before it would be common courtesy for an author not to use names that have already ben used by another author... even if names can't be copyrighted. Thus I don't think James Bond would ever be used in connection with a spy novel, because the name is too famous. Or, names used for the dragons and other characters in Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern novels would ever be used by anyone writing a book.
Similarly, if I were to publish a novel that contained, let's say, alien names I would be upset if later someone came out with a novel that contained one or more of those names.

11-29-2004, 07:28 AM
That's assuming that the writer is familiar with those names. Speaking for myself, I'm totally oblivious to any names that Anne McCaffrey used because I'm fairly certain I haven't read any of her work. With that in mind, I don't see any reason for anyone to become upset over the reuse of a name unless the other usage also includes a character description that is also identical. Then some investigation might be in order, assuming that yours came first.

11-29-2004, 04:10 PM
When I find out that a name I have been using has a meaning that I did not expect, like the Zoroastrian princess name being that of a hallucinogenic drug, I simply change the spelling a bit, such as making the 'i's into 'y's.

I recently learned that the main character in a novel I turned into my agent had a name with an actual meaning in Hebrew. Fortunately, it was an appropriate meaning (whew!).


12-12-2004, 10:33 PM
I just googled one of my character names. It's a company that's been in operation since 1978! Eek! And here I was, borrowing the name from an ancient priest....

About the above post: It reminds me so much of Zoroastrianism.

12-16-2004, 09:37 PM
There's a Socorro in Texas, and in New Mexico. ;)

02-04-2005, 11:46 PM
Dave--they don't add up to PA IS A SCAM do they? :lol

02-05-2005, 07:38 AM
Afraid not. I keep my advocacy efforts separate from my fiction. Some of the things I've witnessed are just too strange to be accepted in a work of fiction.

02-11-2005, 02:20 AM
P&E: The Book could be a bestseller.

Or how about The Logo Is Always Right: The Downfall of Publish Anything? :smokin

Andrea 0]