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SPQ 049: Trademarked Companies: Can You Use Brand Names in Your Book Titles?

Written by Steve Scott on February 13, 2015. Listen to SPQ: iTunes | Stitcher | RSS Feed
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The Question

Is it okay to use trademarked names, like Steve did with his Evernote book, when writing a book? How can I legally use trademarked names in my book titles?

Biggest Takeaway

Steve’s Answer

A lot of authors struggle with using trademarks in their titles, so this is a great question. Steve has a book called “Master Evernote,” so he went through the same experience of wondering if he could put the name of a product in his title. Many books use trademarked names in their titles, so it’s really confusing.

When Steve first started writing about self-publishing, he made it a point to avoid mentioning “Amazon” and “Kindle” in his titles. This is the reason he used “Self-Publishing Questions” as the title for this podcast.

You should definitely check out the Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook. The show notes for this episode also have a link to an article Steve found on copyright and trademark issues.

Some companies don’t care if you use their product names, as long as you don’t make people think you’re representing them. Steve’s book says it is an “unofficial” guide to Evernote so people don’t think Evernote endorsed the content.

Some companies really do care about use of their trademarks. The company that owns the trademark “Crock-Pot” defends their trademark rights vigorously. That is why so many authors use the term “slow cooker” in their book titles.

You definitely don’t want to make people think your book is endorsed by a particular company. Steve was going to collaborate on a project with someone who works at Google. The Google employee was going to write a book about organizational habits and tie the content in to the company. Steve asked him to contact the legal department first, and the legal department came back and said the project wasn’t going to happen.

You should really avoid using logos owned by other companies. Steve’s original book cover used Evernote’s elephant logo, but Nancy Hendrickson wrote to him and advised him not to use Evernote’s creative property.

Do not use any trademarked phrase in your Web address, or you will definitely get a cease-and-desist letter.

There’s no absolute answer to this question. If a lot of books in your niche use a trademarked term in their titles, you might be okay, but you should talk to an attorney first. If you don’t see any books in your niche with the trademarked term, you should probably avoid it.

Another way to avoid problems is to explicitly tell people that the book is not endorsed by or affiliated with the company in any way.

Resources and Links

Master Evernote: Steve’s book on using Evernote to stay organized

The Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook: Find information on contracts, copyright law, and other items of interest to self-publishers

Trademark Law & Book Titles: A valuable resource on using trademarks in book titles

  • Jonathan Daifuku

    Hi:

    I’ve
    finished writing a historical novel placed in Barcelona 1906 which I’ve titled:
    The Kodak Journal Murders. I plan to self publish this on Amazon. Am I liable
    to run into any problems with the brand-name-in-the-title issue?

    Thanks for
    any help.

    Jonathan in
    BCN

    • Honestly, you might. You never know what can happen when you use a trademarked name in the title. I’d look on Amazon and see how many people use the Kodak name in their titles.