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Hello Nori,
I am working on a science fiction novel that uses the names of real products, corporations, and organizations.  It is my intention to try to get the novel published upon completion.  I'm concerned about getting into a legal mess or encountering other unforseen perils because of usage of the real names.   I've tried to research this subject and it seems like a lot of people advise against it, though at the same time I can think of a number of fictional books just off the top of my head that use the names of real products, companies, etc.  How do they get away with it?  Any insight you have into this topic would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks in advance.

Dear Kristen,
Thank you for your questions. There are a couple of ways you can use a company's trademarked name that would make them mad. First, you could show their product in a bad light. This could be anything, for example, suppose you write a scene where gangsters are drinking a particular brand of whiskey. The company may feel that you tarnished their image, as though only gangsters like their product.
Avoid criticizing a brand name directly, like if you write a story about what a bad company such-and-such is, and how all their products are inferior.
Anything that's not defamatory should be okay.
Another situation is if you try to use a brand name to make money, like if you try to pass your book off as a product of the Disney company, or something like that.
Companies also don't like it if you use their brand name to refer to a generic product, or worse, make it into a verb. Like if you say, "Please  Xerox this." You should say, "Please photocopy this."
If you just have a bunch of ordinary neighborhood guys sitting around watching the game, and they are eating Doritos and drinking Pepsi, that should be fine. As a writer you want to have as much specific detail as possible. Like if your character goes to the beach and has to have her Neutrogena sun block, that should be fine. It doesn't criticize the product and adds a lot to the character. Another character might be addicted to her MTV or C-SPAN, or might catch an episode of ABC World News Tonight. That's all fine.
However, if you are going to use a product in a scene that could have negative connotations, consult an entertainment attorney.
I hope this helps,

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Nori J. Muster


Writing and publishing books, including e-books.


I have been writing for publication since 1981, including years as a staff writer, associate editor, editorial writer, and freelance reporter. At this time, I have eight Kindle books for sale at

Lakes of Tempe Authors, Tempe, Arizona

Betrayal of the Spirit: My Life behind the Headlines of the Hare Krishna Movement
Dreaming Peace: Your Thoughts Can Change the World
Cult Recovery Handbook: Seven Paths to an Authentic Life
Child of the Cult
Learning to Flow with the Tao: The 64 Hexagrams of the I Ching
Positive Quotations: Wisdom from the Master Mind
Collected Writings: Five Books by Nori Muster
Noriland Art Gallery: Secrets from the Vault
Spiritual Summer and Other Short Stories

UCLA Extension Writer's Program, 1988 - 1994
Master's Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, Western Oregon University, 1991

Awards and Honors
USA Today, Los Angeles Times, BBC World Services Focus on Faith, BBC Sunday Programme,, Glamour Magazine, Portland Mercury News, W-Five TV (Toronto), Publisher's Weekly, Boston Phoenix, San Francisco Chronicle, ABC TV News - 20/20, ABC radio, Associated Press, The Age (Melbourne),, The New York Times, Religious News Service, Dallas Morning News, Columbia Journalism School, Whole Life Times (Los Angeles), Toronto Sun, the John Dayle Show (KFYI AM, Phoenix), the Eliot Stein Show (syndicated radio and Internet broadcast), Discovery with Josh Wagner (KKUP, 91.5 FM, Santa Clara, California), KOGO (News Radio 600, San Diego), Jupiterís Girl syndicated radio show, Lakes Log.

Book Reviews:
Publisherís Weekly, Feminist Bookstore News, Yoga Journal, New York Post, Choice Magazine, Boston Herald, Nexus (Colorado), Gentle Strength Times, Coastlines (UCSB alumni), Theology Digest, Nova Religio, Rapport, India West,,

Book Signings:
Prescott College reunion; Gentle Strength Co-op, Tempe; Different Drummer Bookshop, Laguna Beach; L.A. Times Toastmasters; Biltmore Plaza Border's Books, Phoenix; Bodhi Tree Bookstore, Los Angeles; Health & Life Enrichment Expo, Pasadena; Sacramento Reads book festival, and others.

ISKCON World Review, Van Dhal Publications, Gentle Strength Times, Arizona Woman, Lakes Log, ICSA Today, Cultic Studies Review, University of Illinois Press, Kindle,,, Apple Books, and others.

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