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I read the post about referencing real and fictional characters but would like to know what you think about this. I am writing a book where the character is looking back at his childhood toys and I mentioned a Lego Millennium Falcon he put together as a child. Is it all right to reference this or should I just leave it out altogether?

Thanks

  • I assume you're asking about the legal aspect of using a trademarked term? Maybe some of these previous posts would be helpful. – Rand al'Thor Feb 10 at 22:01
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Right now? Reference whatever you like. In the fairly unlikely event that the book gets published, your publisher will either deal with the legalities or ask you to change it.

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    Given that, nowadays, it is pretty simple to self-publish, it can't really be described as a fairly unlikely event. – Chenmunka Feb 10 at 18:19
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It really shouldn't be a problem. Given that you're using the term with respect to the thing it is trademarked for, I see no issues. In fact, I remember reading a delightful book as a child that made reference to LEGO, it went something like this:

We weren't allowed to have toy guns in the house, except Lego guns. My mother took the visitors toys and placed them on top of the refrigerator.

If you had a plot device which you named Lego you might run into some issues, but that's not what you've done so you should be fine.

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I doubt you'll run into trouble.

I'm aware of three areas of law that this sort of thing might conceivably violate, but I'm guessing you're in the clear for all three.

Those areas are:

Copyright – Names are never protected by copyright, so using the name "Lego Millennium Falcon" cannot possibly be copyright infringement.

Trademark – The key question here is, are you using the phrase "Lego Millennium Falcon" in a way that could mislead people into thinking that your book is an official Lego or Star Wars product? If there's no potential to mislead, there's no trademark infringement.

Defamation – Does your book say things about Lego Millennium Falcon products that are factually false and damaging to their reputation? Probably not.

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Yes, you can reference this character providing you respect registered trademarks, and follow the conditions of copyright and patent laws. After researching the LEGO Millennium Falcon I realize it is quite a fascinating toy. Your character would have spent many happy hours putting it together and playing with it. I can see it becoming a central symbol in your story. You can certainly use the name of the toy if you properly capitalize the words. More on this below.

To help readers like me who are unfamiliar with Star Wars understand the toy and associated games he played, you can describe his memories of assembling the thousands of bricks and parts of characters and machines. You can describe the thrills he experienced as he made one character do this (e.g. fly the plane to [name of place]) or watched another character do that (e.g. shoot down the plane with [name of weapon]). Doing so will not violate copyright even if those things happened in the real story.

To get an idea on what you can do with copyrighted material, see Wikipedia's description of the story of the novel Millennium Falcon written by James Luceno. Referencing toys or books or other items by their patented names/titles in one's story is completely acceptable so long as one capitalizes the appropriate letters. Not capitalizing the proper letters is a violation.

In the case of this toy, the first word LEGO is all capital letters. The name of the toy is LEGO Millennium Falcon. The LEGO Millennium Falcons all have big numbers attached because each model was different. However, unless your character has two models that he compares, you won't want to include five-digit numbers in your story. If you want, you can do like Wikipedia does and just call it Millennium Falcon.

I'm not sure why Wikipedia omits the word LEGO. However, LEGO makes many other toys besides the Millennium Falcon. From Wikipedia/Lego:

Lego (...stylised as LEGO) is a line of plastic construction toys that are manufactured by The Lego Group, a privately held company based in Billund, Denmark.

I include that quote partly to show the word "Lego" both with all caps and with only the first letter capitalized. I find this rather confusing with regards to the copyrighted name of the toy. However, all the listings for the toy that I saw in my Google Search used the LEGO form of the word.

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  • Copyright is irrelevant here; names are never protected by copyright. There's no such thing as "copyrighted names/titles". – Tanner Swett Mar 26 at 3:02
  • Brand names are patented. I'll change the wording. The end result is the same; you can be sued for using it wrong. – Sarah Bowman Mar 26 at 4:29

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