What Filmmakers Should Know About Featuring Logos & Trademarks In An Independent Movie

Andrei Mincov's commentary on the original article
The myth that you can't show logos and trademarks in a movie persists for two reasons. On the one hand, most people do not understand the concept of "use" within the sense of the trademark law. You can only infringe someone's trademark if you are "using" it. And "use" has a very specific meaning with trademarks. You are only "using" a trademark if you are using it to offer or sell products or services that are identical or substantially similar to products and services for which that trademark is registered. Simply mentioning a trademark is not "using" it. Having a protagonist wear a t-shirt that features a big Nike Swoosh, is not infringing Nike's trademark rights—because you are not "using" their trademark. But, as I said, most people don't know this and are simply playing safe.

On the other hand, the bigger reason for the myth is insurance companies. They care less about your legal arguments as to whether having the protagonist wear a Nike shirt constitutes "use" in the trademark law sense. They care more about minimizing risks or making you pay a higher premium. So it has been their policy to basically say, "Doesn't matter if you can get away with this, we want to make sure that this issue never even has a chance to arise. If you want us to insure your movie for a reasonable amount, you will remove everything that can potentially become an issue. You will censor yourself to all but eliminate all risks. And if you insist on leaving things like that in, it's OK. We'll be happy to sell you the same insurance. It would just cost you a lot more.
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