Recently some authors and bloggers have been threatened by huge, rich companies that they will be hauled through the legal system and be sued for their last cent for using a potentially trademarked name. In one case the word was the author’s own legal given name, provable by her birth certificate. In another case, a woman was dragged into court as her personalized car number plate was deemed to be obscene. Once again it was her own legal birth name. Apparently her name means something naughty in another language. A language which wasn’t the one commonly spoken in the country where she lived and where her car was registered.
These things happen. A wise author thinks about them before making her decisions. Naming a particular beverage that made a person drunk, a particular airline whose plane crashed, a particular furniture or electrical company whose product was faulty, is not a good idea unless you have documented evidence that it has happened. Much better to simply say the character had drunk too much “beer”, and that the “chair” broke, or the “plane” crashed.
However, if it is really important to the story to name names, acknowledging the trademark status of those names is a wise thing to do.
And never assume that just because you made a name up, it’s not already a real name and trademarked somewhere. I clearly recall an author trying to invent a name for a hospital in her book and it took her half a dozen attempts to invent one that hadn’t already been trademarked.
Each country has its own trademark office. For the US the place to look is: http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/index.jsp
For Australia it’s: http://pericles.ipaustralia.gov.au/atmoss/falcon.application_start
Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.