Writing novels, most often means putting the characters in actual cities and have them grace known restaurants and locations. Sometimes the character is using a real life product. It is very critical to know what you can or can’t do with a particular brand in your fictional story.
A good example of using brand in your fiction is The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. In it he mentions the Genie Foundation (Ch.12), Free No Catch (Ch. 8), Girl Scout Cookies (Ch. 6) and apparel brands (Ch. 1/12/15)
A trademark is defined as a word, phrase, symbol or design that identifies the source, identity or origin of the product. Simply put, when a trademark is federally registered, it means that no one else can use that mark to identify the same product.
3 Dynamics When it comes to suing brands in your fictional stories there are three aspects to take into account. These are tarnishment or defamation, trademark infringement, and dilution.
Trademark Infringement: This is the least violable rule in using brands in fictional stories. That is because rarely does a character, use, utilise or mention something with the explicit view of selling it to the audience in a story. Most often the author is simply trying to make the character/plot relatable and not trying to sell shoes, cars, watches or any other product. Therefore there really is no case for trademark infringement when a character uses a particular product in the plot scene.
Tarnishment or Defamation: Using a product, service or brand name in an offensive or derogatory way can make you liable for defamation. If you are going to use a brand in a messy and brand-damaging manner then invent a firm that matches the description of an actual firm but use an alternative name or title. At all times if a person, character or scene starts to act with agency in your story then resort to a fictional rather than an actual brand or person to avoid legal problems. Sometimes tarnishment could arise if you use an actual brand but in a manner that they perform roles that they normally wouldn’t do. That puts you in a tricky and complex terrain that you would rather avoid in the first place.
Brand Dilution: This tends to happen a lot with super brands. For example a character may ask for Kleenex instead of wipes or a Toyota/BMW/Ford (depending on the country) instead of simply a car. Dilution tends to be a less serious offense though brand mangers hate it. Most often brand dilution happens out of familiarity than any special connection to the brand. Either way, make sure you always portray the brand in neutral or positive light even in moments of dilution.