Product names in a book

I am right now writing a military fiction book series and I would like to use names of different military products for example: F-24, SR-71 Blackbird, M-1 Grande and so on and so forth. Would I have to pay Lockeed Martian and Springfield royalties for using their products in my book?

[This is not a legal opinion, but…] in 99.9% of cases, no you wouldn’t. Just mentioning product names etc. like that is fair use. You see references to real products all the time, as well as real shop names etc.

Your biggest concern will be making sure you get the details right, because if you get it wrong, you will have a lot of self-appointed experts writing letters and emails to tell you all about it.


Don’t worry I know the details before I write, but to be on the safe side should I put a disclaimer in the beginning? (Where the copyright info and the author notes go)

I wouldn’t worry about it for now. Write it the way you want it, and worry about that sort of stuff when it gets published.

No disclaimer or anything like it is required. However, as Matt says, don’t even worry about it for now. Your publisher’s legal dept will go over it, if necessary, before publication. So the first thing you must do is write the book and get it accepted somewhere :slight_smile:

Its self published so ill be taking all the heat if anything does happen :neutral_face: I will be using either “Infinity Publishing” (they are OK, not the best in the world but, they get the job done…on ancient OS9 computers) or Amazon Book surge to help me, but thats about it.

Plus the book is 3/4 of the way done so, I need to pick up my act quickly. The reason I am not using any major publishers (example: Knopf) is because, I want complete control over EVERYTHING and I simply don’t have the money (I can pay $3,500 tops) thats why Im using self-publishing.

Hiya Expo

I’ve seen trademarks acknowledged on the copyright page of books, but I’ve never noticed anything mentioned regarfding weapon names. Look in a similar book produced by a large publisher. If there is nothing to be seen there, I as a small publisher would consider myself fine. I would have no hesitation putting them in myself. (I just checked in the front of a thriller which made a lot of use of several specific weapons; no mention of permission to use.)

Where you would have trouble with this sort of thing (I imagine) would be if you ran a story line about a gazillion people being shot up in Disneyland with the killers using the underground service passages to get around or something. Disney might take exception to that!

As Matt says, it is important to get the details right but not because of the “self appointed experts” but because of your loss of credibility with readers if you have made mistakes in what you are writing about. In fact, of course, every author is a “self appointed expert”.

Matt – I thought your reference to “self appointed experts” was a bit arrogant. As far as I am concerned, I have bought the book relying upon the expertise of the author. If they show they aren’t expert, then what have I paid for?

The people you are referring to are people who know what you as an author (and your editor) darned well SHOULD know! You’ll be familiar with John Marsden and his “Tomorrow” series for teenagers? I read them as my teenager did and was intensely irritated with his ignorance or plain carelessness in respect of hand guns in a couple of the later books in the series. Now, I am no expert, I have never even handled a hand gun – but I have read a few thrillers and I do like to understand how things work.

So here we had this guy describing someone preventing a “revolver” from firing by “holding the slide back”. It was one of quite a few such errors. I wrote to the publisher.

The point is that the guns and the action were intrinsic parts of the novel. When I read a novel, I suspend reality and enter into the novel’s world. If the novelist is relying on real world elements then I expect them to be accurate.

Stupid mistakes like Marsden’s in the real world background of the novel jerk me out of the novel’s world. If the character tried to stop a revolver being fired by holding back the slide, the character would be dead or wounded or at least very lucky and very surprised! Now they might have stopped the revolver firing by preventing the cylinder rotating (assuming the cylinder had to rotate to bring a round into position to shoot; I’m not sure this is the case with all revolvers, research needed if I am writing about them!) or sticking their finger into the hammer so it couldn’t hit home (but it wouldn’t work with a modern hammerless revolver).

Cheers, Geoff

Geoffrey Heard, Business Writer & Publisher

“Type & Layout: Are you communicating or just making pretty shapes”, the secrets of how type can help you to sell or influence, and “How to Start and Produce a magazine or Newsletter”, now at the new low price of $29.95. See these books and more at or Amazon.

I understand dumb mistakes in a book and they can make you want to cry or laugh so hard that you choke. Guns and weapons or only a small part of this action story. I also know enough about my subjects to intertwine real world objects with a fictional reality.
I also have had experience with a number of different fire-arms in real life to know what it feels like to aim the business end of a gun at a target.

I’ve read some military fiction and there doesn’t seem to be any problem with naming specific pieces of equipment. Sometimes it sounds like ‘Look at all the research I’ve done!’, and other times it’s pure info-porn.

Readers will call you on any inaccuracies. I wish I had that kind of free time… :unamused:

I was not intending to sound arrogant, and I do agree it is important for the author to ensure they get their facts right.

But at the same time, those that find one incorrect and insignificant reference (i.e. not a major plot point, just a flippant off-hand comment) in a 300 page book and feel compelled to write to the author to gloat about finding their mistake…


you most certainly never have read American Psycho which contains up to one third of brand names (the other two thirds are ultra-violence and illegal substances). I did not hear that Bret Easton Ellis was either sued for that or had to pay royalties to all the clothes companies mentioned. Or to Phil Collins and Whitney Houston.

Of course local laws differ, but I think that most countries it is common knowledge that fictional works consist of real world elements.

The mentioning of products should make their manufacturers proud: “The mass-murderer did not kill all this people with a cheap Chines no-name submachine gun but with a reliable Heckler & Koch!”

In movies you can find in the credits all the companies who paid for getting their logos shown. What car will James Bond drive in the next Bond movie? And will he fuel it up at a Shell filling station?

PS: Heckler & Koch, Shell—contact me via PN.

True, but is American Psyco self published or mainstream published?

Pretty sure that was mainstream published. Some reviewers took a dim view of the amount of product name dropping.

A small, technical detail: be sure to capitalize any proper names of products.

Companies don’t seem to mind being mentioned in fiction (usually), but they do seem to mind having their trademarks put in jeopardy by using the product name in a lower-case, generic way. (For instance, aspirin used to be a trade name, but it came into general use as a generic name and the trademark was lost.)

I have seen the “we acknowledge the trademark of XYZ company” in the frontmatter of novels, but not all publishers do that.

In my experience, publishing houses have different standards, so it will depend on which house ultimately publishes it. I may have this wrong, but I believe that American Psycho was published as literary fiction (considered “art”) and not as commercial or genre fiction (considered as “not-art”). What the publishing houses allow will - sometimes - be more strict for the latter than the former.

But the advice you’ve been given so far is good. Don’t worry about any of it until you need to.

To put it plainly, many companies would LOVE to have their products mentioned in a book. (Free Product Placement). The only time they may even show any concern is if it portrayed the product in a very bad light that would hurt their sales of said product.


You talk about the new F22 and in your story you have a fictional reference to a cover up that allowed the F22 to crash due to manufacturer error.

Something like that may raise an eyebrow and the company whose product you are discussing may feel a little concern because that may affect public opinion on a real product based on a fictional and untrue account.

But many times if products are mentioned in everyday use (like the terrorist carried and M-16) even though it may seem un-favorable would not be of any concern to the manufacturer.

In reality companies use it as yet another example of brand name recognition and would show how their product is a “household” name and silently cheer whenever their products show up in works of fiction.

Think about it. If you had a product (say your book) and you read in another work of fiction that a character in the book you were reading actually enjoyed reading your book. Would you be mad or elated?


I have just thought of something else. What about the use of a product from a defunct company that does not exist anymore. Could the remaining entities of that company come back for a re-bound on me?
The company im using has been defunct since: 1976, however their successor has merged with another large company.

You don’t need anyone’s permission to mention a product, although some companies (Kleenix comes to mind) get surly when you use their trademarked name in a generic way.

If you’re not self-publishing, you don’t have to worry about this; that’s what copy-editors are for. If you are self-publishing, then you need to invest in a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style, wherein you will find all your publishing and editing questions answered.

I looked at the manual it says that if you do you a product name that you spell and correctly punctuate it. Yes, it will be self-published for anyone wanting information.