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I've recently looked at the chat that talks about the question of referencing actual military weapons in your writing. Since I'm writing a science-fiction novel, that's not too big of a problem for me; however, this causes me to raise a question: how does this apply to weapons from video games? For instance, Pixonic's game War Robots has some weapon names that I would like to use in the novel, as some of the things in the book have weapons with the same function.

Is it safe to include the names of these weapons (like Zenit or Molot) to correspond to the guns, or do I have to come up with another, original name and reference it to have a similar function to the actual in-game weapon? As of now, I'm assuming I can use the name because I'm clearly stating in my novel that the designers in the story gave it the name because they were lazy and decided to use the name featured in the actual game that uses it. In that case, I will tell where the original name came from.

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As a general rule on copyright infringement: If you have to ask, the answer is "No".

Now, that doesn't mean you cant be clever about it. Zenit does look like a real word "Zenith" which isn't just a TV brand but also means "Pinnical or Height of achievement". Molot looks like Morlock (sp) which is a god in some pantheon I can't remember.

Or you can get clever with the naming of the weapons system. Zenit could easily be leeted to "Zen-1+" or "Z-En-1+" and explained by backronym as using the word Zen, which is not copyrighted or Z-engine for the machine that drives the gun. Molot could be an "Mo-10+" or "M-010+" and similarly explain the elements of the code (the later could be binary code). The repeated plus sign could explain that they come from the same company and this is used as a superior model. If you take this route, don't acknowledge it in the story. It's triva for astute fans of the game and those who want to learn more about your creative process.

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    FYI - those words are borrowed from Russian language. If there are Russians in that world, we can have any of the words like that, no problem. – Alexander Aug 28 '17 at 17:57
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    @Alexander: It's not the the fact that they are legit words... it's that they are the names of similar weapons systems in a similar genre as to the one he's asking about. It's like Avatar, which is a Hindi word, is legal... but if I use it for a guy who has a superpower that allows him to control the four classical elements and he named himself that because he like the cartoon, I'm getting a cease and desist from Nick's Lawyers. – hszmv Aug 28 '17 at 19:27
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IANAL

Yes you can but you shouldn't.

In-Story Reason

No weapon designer will name a weapon after someone else. Weapons are normally named after the designer/founder/company and then a model designation. So Kalashnikov, Colt, Smith & Wesson, and Heckler & Koch. Even the MAC-10 is actually Military Armament Corporation Model 10).

Weapon systems are occasionally named for some famous military figure e.g. M1 Abrams. But it was designed by Chrysler Defense (now General Dynamics Land Systems). The designation I think is from the Army

Aircraft are named e.g. Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II or F-35 Lightning II which is actually the Lockheed Martin X-35.

So a Mecha or robot based on this reality would never just be a Zenit or Molot unless those words mean something in the language of the combatants like Warthog or Eagle i.e. a nickname.

Out-of-Story Reason

Unless you are pitching to write a novelisation of Robot Wars (or other in-universe tie-in) you are limiting your readers. Non-fans of the game won't know what Zenit or Molot are, but it limits your world for not enough upside.

A bullet-proof, flying, fast, humanoid hero does not have to be called Superman unless I am writing about Superman. So are you writing about Zenit & Molot? Or do you just like some feature(s) of the robots? If you are writing about them, pitch a novelisation to the rights owners.

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I am not a lawyer, but No, you shouldn't use them.

A unique invented name is copyrighted, and no in-story justification matters. The owners of the copyright have all the rights to make a profit using that name; if you sell your story they may be entitled to all the profits and damages and court costs on top of that.

You can't open a burger joint and call it McDonald's and say you just got lazy and this seemed like a very popular name for a burger joint.

That is what you are doing in your story, as an author, being lazy and stealing somebody else's work of imagination and trying to make money with it. Whatever your characters say won't matter in the least, just like it doesn't matter if your characters break the law and kill and murder people. They aren't real. They can steal. You cannot.

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