Common Names vs. Trademarked Names

Common Names vs. Trademarked Names

Angela –

I see your point, but how does this really differ from the problem of character names? I write a story, and I make up a name for my character, but with just about any name I pick, say “Phil Walters” or “Susie Kimball” (and I just now made those up), there are going to be dozens of people across the United States with that name. And now the cops are after Phil because Susie is missing and they think he murdered her, or after Susie because her boss says she embezzled $10,000. How does this differ from (a suspected fictious business name) running a sideline in smuggling drugs?

Coming up with names and such is enough of a pain when writing, without making it harder. And what if I do check a name/URL/e-mail out today? Somebody could easily start using the name between the time I submit the story to a publisher and the time it is published (lead times of a year are not unusual). Do I have to recheck everything when I get the final galley? My publisher would be *most unhappy* if I made a whole slew of changes that late in the production cycle.

You can’t be a hundred percent safe on something like this, that’s what the usual disclaimer is for.


Names of individuals are not typically trademarked while business, product and character names are. Using “Susie Kimball” in a book will not lead to a lawsuit. However, using “Cher” might. (Cher is a character mark.)

If you use a business, product or service name first, someone who uses it later isn’t likely to sue and, if they do, they’re not likely to win if you can prove you used it first.

Yes, you should double check business, product and/or service names one last time before your book is published.

There is no disclaimer you can put in a book that completely protects an author from being sued.


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