More specifically I want to mention the drug Dexedrine, however, if that can lead to legal problems, I could simply describe it as an Amphetamine prescription.

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    Since I don't know this drug, it would need the paraphrase for me as a reader anyway. So in this case, you could dispense with the name right away. In the case of a commonly known drug (like e.g. aspirin) it would be interesting to know if it is allowed to be used. But since trademarks are generally mentioned in books, I think this is unproblematic (but I am not a lawyer - so no guarantee).
    – signedav
    Commented Jun 2, 2021 at 21:21
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    Related: Pros and cons of using real brand/company names?
    – Alexander
    Commented Jun 2, 2021 at 23:10

1 Answer 1


This is not legal advice. That costs money and this is free.

The fair use of a Trademark in expressive works is a legal topic that has made it to the Ninth Circuit -- one step below the Supreme Court.

Under the Rogers test, the first inquiry is whether the use of the third-party mark has “some artistic relevance”. The threshold for this test is extremely low; basically, if the level of artistic relevance is more than zero, this is satisfactory. If there is greater than zero artistic relevance in the use of the third-party mark, the next analysis is whether the use of the third-party mark explicitly misleads as to the source or content of the work.

To this seems clear, if you use a trademarked product name in your story, and the use isn't intrinsic to the story, then you'll fail the Roger's Test and lose the suit in court and have to pay Billions of $$$$ in damages. Furthermore, if your use is obviously intrinsic to the story, but you damage their brand by your representation of their product, you'll also lose and have to pay Billions of $$$$ in damages.

Alright, so you might not have to pay Billions of $$$$ in damages, you might just have to remove the trademarked product from your work.

More than likely, people might to decline to publish your work since they don' want to hire a battalion of Lawyers to represent them in an expensive lawsuit because your sense of artistic integrity demanded you say the John took two capsules of Dexedrine rather than John popped a couple of Bennies or John downed some uppers (or whatever the street name for Dexedrine is.)

There has been a recent modification of the Roger's test, but it doesn't apply to your question. For it to apply the connection between the trademark product name and the company needs to be effectively synonymous -- Coca-Cola for instance.

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    Thanks for the very in-depth answer. About the "sense of artistic integrity", it's just a coincidence since the drug was legalized in the exact year of the story.
    – Peixoto
    Commented Jun 2, 2021 at 23:51

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