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Questions about trademark in novel

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Does anyone happen to know if it's okay to use the word "jello," (spelled "jello," not "Jell-O") in a novel? It came up in my critique group that I may need to change "jello" to "gelatin" because of the trademark. That's an easy fix in the prose, but "gelatin" doesn't work in the poem that proceeds the story. So before I change everything, I thought I'd ask.
#1 - April 19, 2014, 12:19 PM

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You should use Jell-O or gelatin,* not jello. Companies are mord upset if you use their trademark incorrectly as a generic that if you use it correctly. Incorrect generic trademark use erodes their trademark protection. For example, it's ok to say "I copied the document with a Xerox machine" but not "I xeroxed the document."

You can use Jell-O without permission or a trademark mark but probably your pub will include a note on the copyright page that Jell-O mark is the property of the trademark owner. In any case, I wouldn't worry too much about this now.

*I'm not a lawyer but this is the practice I have experienced.
#2 - April 19, 2014, 02:10 PM
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I would not use "jello," but I would use "Jell-O." It's important to spell any trademarked names the way the manufacturer does.
#3 - April 19, 2014, 02:25 PM
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I agree that you need to use the correct spelling of the trademarked name.
#4 - April 19, 2014, 03:04 PM
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Thank you all so much for your help! I will change it to "Jell-O."
#5 - April 20, 2014, 08:08 AM

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I believe companies want people to spell the name of their products the correct way so as not to erode their trademarks, but I do not believe they have legal standing to do anything about misspellings, intentional or otherwise. That said, I think it sounds better to spell things the right way. You wouldn't want readers getting jarred by misspellings.
#6 - April 21, 2014, 07:51 AM
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If getting trademark permission is necessary, your publisher's legal department will handle this, or you'll be asked to change it to a generic form then. In some cases, they ask the author to get the permission, but it's not something you need to worry about now. It won't be a deal breaker for a really great story.
#7 - April 21, 2014, 08:34 AM
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#8 - April 21, 2014, 08:54 AM

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Debby G, there probably is nothing they can do about misspellings, but better to be right. I used to get some trade magazine for editors where a lot of the ads were from companies with the correct way to spell and use their trademarks, like the Xerox example, so that stuck with me.

It's a good discussion even if it pops up a lot! As intellectual property owners, we should try to respect the copyrights and trademarks of others before our own are infringed.
#9 - April 21, 2014, 11:39 AM
Kell Andrews
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I agree with using Jell-O. Another one that often comes up is Kleenex.
#10 - April 22, 2014, 06:45 AM
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