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I'm making a manual that references a product that is not mine. What would be the correct way to note this? I'll give an example of a common product (this isn't mine, but it's a similar idea).

Ex.

Although these jeans are very similar to the original Levi's 501, our jeans have a more fitted cut, reinforced knees, and are made with a higher quality denim.

What would be the proper way to note that Levi's is a trademarked brand (and obviously not my brand)? Also, if I'm understanding correctly from the research I've done, I only need to do this for the first reference in the manual, not every single time I use the word Levi's?

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I am not a lawyer, and you should consult a lawyer before you start naming your competitor's brands and products in any publication. It probably isn't worth it; especially if they are bigger than you and it doesn't cost them much (relative to their income) to be trigger-happy with the lawsuits.

I'd also be careful what you SAY about the other product, any denigration of their product or any claim of superiority, no matter how small, can lead to them filing a lawsuit against you. Whether what you wrote is true or not. And the discovery phase of the lawsuit alone, before you ever get to talk to a judge or anyone else, can cost in the tens of thousands.

Heck, Papa John's Pizza was sued to hell and back for years, spending millions on lawyers defending their slogan "Better Ingredients. Better Pizza." They prevailed, but as I recall they did not recover their defense expenses.

All of those warnings said: You should put the trademark symbol on it (r in a little circle, if that is how Levi's presents it (probably so, a registered trademark, but go check their ads or publications) or the little "tm" if that is how they do it. Also change the text "Levi's 501" to emphasis (italics probably) to delineate what is trademarked. I'd do this every time it is referenced. On the first reference, you can add a footnote (7 point font or greater, in the USA, I believe that was the law decades ago when I was writing advertising copy) to note "XYZ is a trademark of ABC corporation."

  • Thanks for the thought out reply. So would probably be ok if I remove the Higher quality" part? Like maybe say, "vintage replicated denim" instead? But I am curious... How do cellphone service companies get away with saying, "verizon is better than at&t" etc in commercials? – Charles Jan 9 at 0:31
  • @Charles Some things have been held by the courts to be subjective, e.g. Papa John's did prevail in saying they made "Better Pizza" because "Better" is a subjective experience. Besides that, Verizon and others often stick to facts measured by 3rd parties, or independent polls, which they can produce. But the reason to avoid referencing competition is not for untruths, but anything you say about them is enough for them to sue, and you likely cannot afford that even if you are in the right. (cont) – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Jan 9 at 11:15
  • So consult a lawyer before you mention them. Or reference them indirectly as you suggested with the word "vintage", or you can use other words that don't pinpoint a brand, like "common", "run of the mill", etc. – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Jan 9 at 11:18

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