“Can I use the names of airlines and cars in my novel?”

“Can I use the names of airlines and cars in my novel?”

Q – 

Angela,

I name a couple of companies in my book, both airlines. The characters are passengers on their flights. I also mention two specific vehicles as the characters travel in them. Is this allowable?

Have a great weekend.

R.F.


A – 

I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice. Please consult with an attorney concerning your specific situation. 

That said…

It depends on the usage and how the companies and their products are portrayed. Also, there are trademark issues to be considered. Most companies will be happy to have a fictional character mention or use their product or service, provided that product or service is not portrayed in a negative light. For example, my character could be out on a hot day, and enjoying a tasty, refreshing, ice-cold Coca Cola. I really don’t think the Coca Cola Company would mind that (though you should still ask). You know what WOULD bother them, though? If my character got food poisoning from their product.

And, let’s say my character has a first class ticket on United Airlines. If the cabin is clean and the crew is friendly and the flight isn’t delayed, etc., United Airlines probably wouldn’t mind being included in your book. But, what is the plane crashes in your book? I imagine United Airlines would not be happy about that. Again, asking up front is the best course of action.

Again, I urge you to consult with an attorney. Or, simply make up different company and vehicle names.

For example, United Airlines could be Untied Airlines.

Toyota could be Yotota, Chevrolet could be Chuvralow, etc. Readers will know that you’re playing word games with real companies and that’s okay. 😉

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One Response to "“Can I use the names of airlines and cars in my novel?”"

  1. Richard McHenry  September 25, 2022 at 2:26 pm

    I think companies would be more inclined to be upset if you DO make up names which are closely aligned to theirs, and would consider it spoofing them, regardless of how positive or negative you might be using their name.

    I don’t see Toyota being happy about using Noyota, or someone drinking ChokaCola. Even changing recognizable names could possibly be unacceptable. So I think if a brand name were used in an acceptable fashion no one would grumble. “She was so upset at the death of her husband, Mary found herself taking Maalox by the quart for at least a month after.”