Brand names and copyright

Brand names

When I started planning my novel, I already had an image in mind, in fact more than an image, a sound first then the figure of the voice, shouting in Spanish three words including a brand name, Coca-Cola

‘¡Agua Cerveza Coca-Cola!’ dragged her out of her dream.

Having added the world wide brand Coca-Cola, later, I came to a point in my text where I wanted to refer to a device that other authors might simply refer to as a “pc” and move on, or they might refer to the HP or Samsung or whatever they actually use. In my case, a Mac user, I don’t consider it a pc, so when it came to referring to a computer, I didn’t think twice in writing the following passage …

She took the spectacles into her hands, passed her index finger over their frame, unconsciously avoiding touching the lenses so that dad won’t need to wipe clear any smears from her fingers. She looked at the book, he was reading through the Mac manual, the chapter on settings, for his recently acquired computer.

Naming brand name things, unintentionally, continued; one day, when I returned home, I opened the draft document and allowed a brand name to transfer from a heated conversation at work, with a colleague about a particular programme he likes and uses a lot, and which I rarely use, and of which we were having heated discussions. It crept in, in this way …

… Javier suggested that apart from The Timetable for each month, there should be a yearly one, where planning needed to be done well in advance for school holidays and birthdays too, each of them would make a note of their annual holidays as soon as they knew them. Javier insisted on setting it out with his favourite programme, Excel.

… as did google

‘You might still be accepted in the UK if you move quickly, I’ll google the legal time …’

Do I need their permission to use their brand names, in this way, in my novel?

I did some research and although I understand that in the examples mentioned above, it is not necessary for me, the author of those words and of the novel, to ask for permission. However, the waters are somewhat cloudy and I am all ears to knowledgable opinions and advice. Should I seek their permission? I understand it is not necessary to do so. However, those are not the only words I have used …

What about Nadal?

Is his name a brand name? Do I need to get his permission?

There is a new poster of Rafael Nadal, the Mallorcan tennis player, on the wall next to my son’s bed, replacing an older poster he had of a younger Nadal.

And Federer as well?

‘I bought it today with uncle Ron, on the way back from the tennis club, because Nadal will be playing next week in the French Open. I really want him to win, you know he had a back injury in Australia and hasn’t won a title since then, but I think he’s in good shape now. If he wins at Roland Garros, it will be his ninth French Open and his fourteenth Grand Slam title!’
‘I thought you liked Federer as well, he’s also a very good player, isn’t he?’
‘Yes, he’s an excellent player, but Nadal is the best.’

I think that again, I need not, these are, as it were, names in general public use. However, if I were to deliberately, or otherwise, use their names in a defamatory, libellous or other kind of way, about which they would have legal redress against me, I think it would be advisable to seek legal advice. But I have not in anyway compromised them nor their brands, so I think I am on safe ground, even if the waters remain muddy.

More brand names

As a regular shopper at a local supermarket, I do as others do and refer to the supermarket by its brand name, Mercadona

The neighbour had just returned from her morning trip to Mercadona.

so in my text there are a few mentions made of the very popular, regional supermarket chain …

I put Ron’s roster back into the trolley and head off home taking a detour to Mercadona, the local supermarket, to buy some water, milk and bread.

There are more, so if you would like to see them, follow the link for more examples of references to Mercadona.

El Corte Inglés, the prestigious and very well known national chain of department stores is also referred to a couple of times, here is one of them.

Every so often, after dropping off the kids, we go shopping together, in the afternoons when there are no after-school activities we take the kids out to burn energy and regularly meet up at one or another park, each neighbourhood has got its own square and open spaces, most of which have play areas, the kids particularly like the one in front of El Corte Inglés, La Plaza Calvo Sotelo.

Refer to El Corte Inglés page for other extracts.

When not to name brand names

As I had decided that one of my main characters, Ron, was going to be an airline pilot, consequently I found I had lumbered myself with some unexpected research into his arbitrarily selected career. First lots of online commercial airline reading, assimilating flight simulators and copious amounts on air commerce …

‘Ron was the one most concerned about a possible pregnancy. Until I had my period the following week, he kept asking me if it had arrived. He thought that being a father so young would be an obstacle for him to become a pilot, by then he had already applied for a scholarship at Biggin Hill to qualify as a commercial pilot, without his father’s knowledge. Craig was furious when he found out because he wanted to pass on to his only child the small building company he owned and insisted on Ron learning the trade. They had an incensed row, Craig said he wouldn’t give Ron a penny for his studies. Do you remember that?’

… and then came a time to decide who he flew for as a commercial pilot.

It did not seem right to leave a name deliberately out of the conversation yet at the same time make it appear authentic. I decided the name would have to be mentioned at some point, so did I actually name one of the only two airline companies that fit the bill, or do I make up imaginary names, despite the fact that anyone can google the routes corresponding to the dates and see only two companies.

I decided on discretion without over egging the fictional names I have used, here are some examples …

… For the next three years, until he got the job offer from English Airways, he was always calculating when my next ovulation would be and going off to buy condoms. …

… later in the novel you will read that he changes company, essentially he wants more time with the family.

Ron used to work for English Airways on long-haul flights, he changed company to work for Simple Jet five years ago. He used to like long-hauls as he had to go to many exotic locations around the world. Eventually he started to feel the effect of different time zones on his body. With the long-hauls he had less work hours but he was staying away from home longer, so he had only about one third of the month as time off to spend at home.

His UK base is now at Gatwick, from where he regularly travels to El Altet airport in Alicante and here is Ron, off-duty, but talking to the passengers on a flight …

‘Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. This is captain Ron Cartwright speaking, I am an off duty pilot and a passenger on this flight. I’d like to inform passengers that the rear toilet is no longer in use. Anyone who needs to use the toilet before we land, please use the one at the front of the cabin. I require medical assistance. If there is a doctor or a nurse on board, would you please go to the rear of the cabin. I request that passengers remain calm, things are under control and the flight will continue as normal.’

the captain of the flight informs the passengers that they will shortly land at El Altet airport in Alicante.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking,’ announced the cabin speakers. ‘We have started our descent. Please stay in your seats and fasten your seat belts. We will be landing at El Altet airport in approximately fifteen minutes, it’s another clear and sunny day in Alicante and the temperature right now is twenty-four degrees. We wish you a safe onward journey; enjoy your stay and thank you for choosing to fly with English Airways. Crew please prepare the cabin for landing.’

In the above, I avoided using brand names and as such the need (if indeed there is such a requirement) to obtain permission from the brand name owners …

… however, below I tacked the vessel in the opposite direction, as an ardent follower and supporter of a sports club, and a resident of Croydon, I had no doubt, in fact I had a strong urge to make sure the local football club, their fervent supporters, a prominent member of the team as well as the owner and saviour of the club, were mentioned, not just by name, but in a way that reflects their prominent role in the locality and community …

From a third hook hangs a red and blue striped football-shirt. Salva’s got a lot of interest in football, ever since he was told that his grandfather, who he never met, was a keen supporter of Crystal Palace Football Club and because of his grandfather, both his grandmother and his mother follow all the news about the team. Three times he has been to watch matches there, once with me and twice with his granny.

… the situation of CPFC brought this to the fore, wanting to clearly indicate the power that a sports club can have on the local community and also on a personal and family level, living it meant that I wanted to write about this aspect of family life, which affects millions to a greater or lesser degree, my beloved Eagles.

In this case I am deliberately using a brand name, with copyright implications beyond the club itself and seeking permission is undoubtedly the direction of travel to follow.

Not least because I also refer to the Chairman, Steve Parish, and star player, Wilf Zaha, by name and in more than a merely passing way.

It became more complicated and preconceived in so far as the local football teams of the two towns, Croydon and Alicante, which can’t be ignored in my household, and like many, many more families across the UK, football plays a central role. So, CPFC had to be mentioned, as did Hercules, and not in passing, so I lot more deliberate attention was involved …

I carefully take a sip from my mug as the coffee is still very hot and then I begin, I jot down a provisional timetable, for which I have made up my own colour code. I use red and blue, the colours of my dad’s team. He was a passionate supporter. ‘South London and Proud,’ he often repeated, a season ticket holder of a seat at the Holmesdale Road end, as a consequence I follow how the team is doing. A lot has happened at the club since dad died. They were relegated from the Premier League, went into administration and were saved at the last minute by local hero Steve Parish. Last season they were promoted after some dramatic play-off matches and now is their first season back in the Premier League, where they belong, and this time they are there to stay, I am sure. What a shame dad isn’t here to enjoy it after supporting them for so long.

Wilf is the one the fans are full off, their latest talisman …

The shirt’s got the number 16 and the name Zaha across the back. There is also a scribble on it made with a black marker. The summer before last I went with the children to stay with my mum in Croydon. Through a friend of my dad, she got two tickets for me to take Salva to a friendly match at Selhurst Park, just before the season started, the seats were right next to the entrance from where the players come onto and leave the pitch. At half time the players were heading to the tunnel, Zaha was passing by and Salva shouted out, waving the Palace top he had bought before kickoff and asking him to sign the shirt. The team’s rising star player was very nice, he stopped and with that great smile Wilf has, quickly wrote his name with the felt tip pen my son had also bought in the club shop.

Hercules extract and info

Then it became more complicated and preconceived in so far as the local football teams (one in each town), which can’t be ignored in my household, and in many, many more across the UK, CPFC had to be mentioned, as did Hercules, and not in passing, so I lot more deliberate attention was involved …

… It seems it would be best to ask for permission, even though I may not need to, to rubber-stamp this deliberate placement …

Additional brand names and references to them became a theme behind itself.

There are additions created in a very deliberate manner, such is the case of …

Jurado …

‘… I pour some water into the base of the cafetera expreso, scoop ground coffee from a packet of Jurado into the middle part and screw the top on tightly, put the coffee maker on the cooker and switch it on. …’

La Rioja …

‘Come on, eat your swordfish,’ he made an effort to smile, refilled their glasses and raised his.
Eden sipped her Rioja. They continued eating in silence. “What am I supposed to do about his confession? …

… the media …

Next I go to prepare a couple of bags with the things we require, bring them downstairs next to the front door and shove a small stack of Metros and Evening Standards into one of them. Salva loves doing Sudoku and has now started on the crosswords too, but he gets frustrated at his lack of knowledge and vocabulary so I regularly remind him to read more books, not just his favourite stuff, a wider variety like novels and to look at the news stories in the newspapers, but they don’t interest him.

‘Newspaper excerpts or one each then to page? …’

Correct usage, additional acknowledgement of rights …