Screenwriting : Brand names by Amanda Samaroo

Amanda Samaroo

Brand names

Can you refer to stores such as "Hot Topic" by name?

Taylor Albertson

Most will tell you no. There are multiple reasons for this: You are not the director, so let her or him decide. This gives them the creative freedom they desire. For things such as songs there are copyrights, etc., and no one wants to feel locked down to your selection, or pay out the nose for those rights.The same may go for store names. Another reason, say you got a blockbuster on your hands. Companies negotiate to get their names on products in your screenplay and subsequent movie. That means money to your producers. So you do not want to be locked down by naming a store. I would go with "Hot Topic like store". Or maybe even "young, hip, clothing store". Hope I help!

Stuart Wright

You can refer to what you want

Stuart Wright

But unless it's story pertinent why restrict the script to a brand

Amanda Samaroo

Great comments thanks!

Stephen Barber

how bout': "A retail store that’s overwhelmingly stocked with visual, audible, and wearable obscenities… Very attractive hangout for attention craved teens.”

Beth Fox Heisinger

Sure, you can use trademark/brand names in fiction provided you take good commonsense precautions. The question isn't can you, but rather HOW you use them. You most certainly cannot use a trademark in a title. There should never be any confusion when using a company name that the company in some way is associated with or endorsing your script. Many writers just use trademarks in passing to create an authentic sense of realism in a script. For example, "The Goodyear Blimp flew over head." Or, perhaps your characters are at the mall and, "They head into Hot Topic." Or, "Those tire tracks are from a Goodyear tire." When deciding whether to use a real trademark in your story, there are three things you need to think about: (1) trademark infringement; (2) tarnishment or defamation, and (3) dilution -- meaning companies do not like their trademarks used in generic terms, certainly not in writing even though it is often done in real life conversations. For example, you don't Xerox a copy, you make a copy or photocopy. If you have a character who's crying he should ask for a tissue, not a Kleenex. The killer cleans up the crime scene with bleach, not Clorox. Babies wear diapers, not Pampers, in your story. But, if you really don't need to use a trademark, don't. Simply make up a name. It's much easier. Ask yourself, is it absolutely vital to your story to mention Hot Topic? Perhaps it isn't. Anyway, I hope that helps!

Kerry Douglas Dye

Sure, though make sure you don't expect all readers/viewers to recognize the name. I for one have never heard of Hot Topic (guess they don't have those around me). Don't expect the name to bring its own context (unless of course it's something universal like McDonalds).

Kerry Douglas Dye

Okay, looked it up. They have them in New Jersey. I'm a New Yorker, dude. We're the most insular people on Earth. If it's not in Manhattan or Brooklyn, it might as well be on Mars.

David Armstrong

You can always make up your own brands, like Tarantino - Red Apple cigarettes etc. (unless the particular brand you want to mention has a specific characteristic you need for the story/scene).

Brian Shell

Picking up the Tarantino baton from David, remember Big Kahuna Burger???

David Armstrong

Isn't that the hawaiin burger joint?

Alan Tregoning

I don't think it's a big issue as long as it's not overused. Using brand names in character descriptions can be an effective way to flesh the character out in the readers mind. "Chad, 17 going on douche bag, dresses himself like a Hot Topic mannequin" or "Sarah, 16, perennial wall flower, would love to shop at the Gap but has to settle for the clearance rack at the Dress Barn." Going into a certain store to shop or eat would be OK, but don't make it central to your story. If the script is optioned and produced and you set a food fight in a McDonalds and all your producer can get the location rights to is Burger King then your working title of "Big Mac Attack" just went bye bye. What you need to think about is what is the most important elements of the scene that I need to describe to get the point across to the reader? Is it important that they have coffee at Starbucks or can it just be a coffee shop? Doe it have to be Hot Topic or can it be "That trendy shop in the mall where teens flock to spend too much money to barely cover themselves."

Brian Shell

@David... that's the brilliance of Tarantino's flavor with words... who else would think up a hawaiin burger joint's name in Cali... in order to avoid needing a reputable company's legal permission to drop its name in your story??? Brilliance, sheer brilliance.

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