Fake brands

Started by Reelist, March 10, 2017, 03:36:22 PM

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I'm writing a short that revolves heavily around smoking and wondering if I have to use made up brands. Am I allowed to refer to a cigarette as a specific brand as long as I don't feature the logo? You see the major brands all throughout movies, but I'm assuming they get permission to do that, which I cannot afford. If I come up with fake brands, do I have to make sure they absolutely don't already exist? Or can I use the name as long as it doesn't have the same logo? I'd prefer to not use major brands so that it looks like an ad for them, but I don't want them to look like really cheap knock offs, either. So, where's the line in using a company's product without showing the name or logo?


Generally, you're fine to use trademarked brands as long as you're not featuring them in a way that is disparaging or could be perceived as harmful to the brand. Basically, if your main character just likes to smoke, go ahead and use Marlboros or whatever. If he likes to smoke so much he gets supercancer and bursts into flames, probably use a made-up brand. If the characters refer to the brand in any way that could be considered libelous, definitely use a made-up brand.

The other consideration when showing logos or packaging is to not create the false impression that the company whose product you're showing is sponsoring or endorsing your film. The biggest thing here is to keep the appearance of the product incidental within the shot, not to do a big cutaway insert of the package with the logo bright and center.
My house, my rules, my coffee


Great, thanks! That was the first stumbling block I ran into. It's kind of a pet peeve of mine to see fake beer or cigarettes in a movie, almost like hearing a phone number beginning in "555"- just takes you out of that world for a second. The best example is the Beer that's just a white can with "Beer" in blue letters and another white can called "Food" in 'Repo Man', they managed to pull it off by turning it into a joke. Then I just thought of countless examples of seeing real cigarette packs in movies, but assumed they had the budget in those to get that cleared. I noticed when I watched Pulp Fiction on bluray that Vincent Vega is the only character who doesn't smoke 'Red Apples', in the restaurant scene you can clearly see on the table a pouch of 'Drum' tobacco. They must have been thrilled by that, that scene made smoking rolled cigarettes all the rage!