Asked in Copyright, Intellectual Property and Trademark for New York

Q: The use of famous names/trademarks in word search books.

I am creating word search books for the American market and was wondering if it is ok to use the names of famous people, such as authors and actors, or the names of games, such as Monopoly in my word lists. They would be factual and not portray anyone/thing in an unfavourable light. The words would only be used inside the book, and would not be used on the cover. I have asked my publisher directly but did not get a definitive answer. Could you please advise me? Many thanks.

2 Lawyer Answers
James L. Arrasmith
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A: When incorporating the names of famous people or trademarks, such as board games, into your word search books intended for the American market, it is crucial to consider intellectual property laws. The use of famous names can be complex due to copyright, trademark, and rights of publicity. Typically, factual use of public figures' names, like authors or actors, is less problematic, especially if not depicted negatively or misleadingly. However, this can vary based on context and jurisdiction.

For trademarks, like the name of a game such as Monopoly, caution is necessary. Trademarks are protected to avoid consumer confusion and protect the brand's identity. Using them without permission, especially if they are central to your book's content or could imply endorsement, can lead to legal challenges. It's generally safer to avoid using well-known trademarks or to seek explicit permission from the trademark holder.

Before proceeding, it might be wise to consult with a legal professional experienced in intellectual property law. They can offer tailored advice considering the specifics of your project. Also, reviewing similar published works and how they handle such names can provide additional insights. While your publisher should ideally guide you, their hesitance indicates that seeking independent legal advice could be beneficial to ensure your work complies with relevant laws and regulations.

Giselle Ayala Mateus
Giselle Ayala Mateus
  • Trademarks Lawyer
  • New York, NY
  • Licensed in New York

A: When considering including the names of famous individuals or games in word search books for the American market, it's essential to navigate copyright and trademark laws cautiously. While individual names typically aren't protected by copyright, using them in a commercial context could raise concerns about rights of publicity or endorsement implications. Similarly, using trademarked names without permission may lead to infringement issues, especially if it could cause confusion about the source of goods or services. However, factual use that does not imply endorsement or affiliation, particularly in a non-derogatory context like a word search, is often less legally risky.

In conclusion, while incorporating famous names and game titles into word search books can enhance their appeal, it's crucial to proceed with caution to avoid potential legal pitfalls. By seeking legal counsel, obtaining necessary permissions, and staying informed about intellectual property laws, creators can minimize risks and confidently bring their projects to fruition.

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