Friday, June 28, 2013

Writer Worries: when your fictional business name turns out to be a real one

"Blushing In Pink" dress by Ouma

A character in my novel is a fashion designer starting an urban, alternative bridal boutique. She upcycles old dresses into couture gowns that people can actually afford. My character's business deserves a cool name.  I have spent the last week making up every cool name I could think of, just to Google and find out it already exists.

Now I know if I were actually starting a business, my business name is  only held in the state where I copyrighted it. But for the purposes of a novel, can I use the name of a business that already exists? I googled and didn't really find an answer.

I have a huge list of buzzwords that I have been putting together and tearing apart like refrigerator magnet poetry  and I'm getting frustrated. I need a name that is romantic and edgy and urban. One that declares that this is a bridal shop but not that kind of bridal shop. You aren't going to get white blindness from staring at generic gowns in this boutique. You won't find $10 worth of gauze sold as veils for $70. Instead it's a place where the prices are reasonable, the veils are birdcage-y and the dresses are made with love and color. It's the kind of shop where chick flick moments are optional but feeling like a badass is not.

Wow I think I just wrote the commercial for it :)

Anyhow, these are the names I made up that turned out to be real bridal shops:

Claire Pettibone Gown

She Said Yes
Something Old, Something New
All Frocked Up
Frocked Up

I also have a list of ones that I googled that didn't come up as being shops but I'm not sure if I like those as well as the others:

Aisle Less Traveled
Rock the Frock
Gorgeous But Deadly

Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?


  1. I'm not a lawyer, so keep that in mind, but as I understand it you cannot copyright a name (trademarking is different), which means that as writers we are free to write about any brand name we so desire. Coca Cola cannot sue you even if you write that their product tastes bad, Walmart cannot sue you even if you write that they have poor customer service, and McDonalds most definitely can't sue you if you write that their food is unhealthy.

    Saying things about a brand that are factually inaccurate AND could harm the brand's reputation is libel, especially if you do it in the context of news gathering. So McDonald's could sue you if you were a journalist reporting that the primary ingredient of their burgers is rat intestines (unless you had proof). Regardless, no company can sue you for using their name, only for saying things about them that are both untrue AND hurt their business.

    You could in theory name your bridal shop Barnes and Noble, and no one could do anything about it (although you're readers would probably be confused). So if you come up with a name that happens to be the name of a real bridal shop, that's okay (at least according to my understanding of the law). Just don't libel them. In fact, when your book becomes wildly successful, the real bridal shop might see a surge in business, which they will probably thank you for.

    With all that being said, I like Lovesick or Vixen the best. They're short and to the point. Unlaced and Scandalize sound more like lingerie stores, and Aisle Less Traveled sounds more sophisticated and less edgy.

    I hope that helps. There are plenty of websites you can check to help familiarize yourself with copyright vs trademark laws, so don't just take my word for it.

    - James

    1. Wow thank you! That is very helpful. Now I at least have an idea where to begin looking into that.


I would love to hear your thoughts. Please comment.