Brands in Film – Best Practices

Coca Cola, Nike, Reebok, Adidas, UPS, McDonalds, FedEx, Dairy Queen, Kodak. You may be wondering what these brand names have in common. These brand names (and many others) all represent trademarks. “That sounds expensive! How can I afford to have the protagonist in my movie drink a Pepsi and eat a slice of Domino’s pizza at dinner? I have to cover all the labels.” Unfortunately, most filmmakers think so. The idea that producers would have to seek permission and spend more of their dwindling production budget to use every label, sign, or clapboard in their film isn’t entirely true. This concept is a very misunderstood term in trademark law.

The important part of a brand is what the brand represents. A trademark represents the source — it identifies who made the goods you buy or who provided the services you enjoy. So the big question remains: “Am I allowed to use another person’s trademark in my film?”

The good news is that as a filmmaker, you have every right to include a trademark in your film. You have the right to include the trademark in your film as long as the trademark or the product bearing the trademark is used as intended without the use being abnormal or unusual. Therefore, as long as a filmmaker uses a mark or logo as intended and does not disparage or defame the mark or logo in your film, you may use that mark or logo without asking permission. Easy right?

As with any other rule, there is always a caveat. You, as a filmmaker, have no right to commit trade libel, even in the name of entertainment. Trade defamation occurs when a product or service is falsely accused of having a bad quality. For example, if you show someone in your film eating a McDonald’s hamburger, that person would immediately faint because the food was toxic, which would slander the brand.

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Another important question to ask goes something like this: “So if I can use a trademark in my film in a non-defamatory way, why would I want to pay a royalty to have it deleted?” While the law does not require filmmakers to obtain permission to use these items in film or television shows, there may still be good business reasons to do so. For example, broadcast television is an advertising-financed medium. So if you’ve used Coca-Cola labels on every drink, and those drinks are prominently displayed on the TV screen, you’ve essentially given Coca-Cola free airtime.

I don’t think the network broadcasting your show would be too keen on giving away free airtime. Additionally, as a filmmaker, you may be able to create more than one film. By showing good faith and possibly paying or asking permission to use a trademark in your current film, the trademark owner may be willing to support or even fund part of your project (provided, of course, that the trademark owner allows the use of their product or film). liked his brand in the film). While permission to use a logo or trademark is not always required, it can still make good business sense to seek permission.

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