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Can I use the name of a shutdown business/organization in a video game?

#1
What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? Minnesota

My friends and I are making a video game for an Organization that rescues captive wildlife in hopes to promote their cause and bring in more donations. The game will be free, so no profits will be made, aside whatever donations people choose to make to the organization. This game includes the rescue stories of some of their animals (we have the permission from the organization) and some of them have come from businesses/organizations/facilities that have been shutdown. We would like to include the actual name of the places, but we are unsure of the legal issues with that. We are changing the names of all individuals and currently running businesses/organizations/facilities that the animals have come from, to ensure their privacy and to not affect their reputation, and to hopefully negate the legal issues that may come from using their names. Are we able to use the shutdown places' name? And what other legal issues may come about as far as this topic is concerned?
 


adjusterjack

It's a Dry Heat
#2
Are you asking if you can say something like:

"This animal was given a home after Joe's Pet Emporium went out of business."

I don't think that would be a problem but it is always wise to check with an attorney before you name names under any circumstances.
 

quincy

Senior Member
#3
What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? Minnesota

My friends and I are making a video game for an Organization that rescues captive wildlife in hopes to promote their cause and bring in more donations. The game will be free, so no profits will be made, aside whatever donations people choose to make to the organization. This game includes the rescue stories of some of their animals (we have the permission from the organization) and some of them have come from businesses/organizations/facilities that have been shutdown. We would like to include the actual name of the places, but we are unsure of the legal issues with that. We are changing the names of all individuals and currently running businesses/organizations/facilities that the animals have come from, to ensure their privacy and to not affect their reputation, and to hopefully negate the legal issues that may come from using their names. Are we able to use the shutdown places' name? And what other legal issues may come about as far as this topic is concerned?
It can be tricky to use the names of real people and the names of real places in promotional (or other commercial) material without authorization from those people or entities whose names you will be using.

The Humane Society often rescues dogs from puppy mills, for example, and stories are published about the dogs that are rescued and the inhumane conditions from which they were rescued. Photos and videos are often included to illustrate the stories.

While the states where these puppy mills are located are mentioned - and that is okay - great care is taken to avoid mentioning the names of the puppy mills or the owners of the puppy mills. All funds raised can easily be wiped out with one defamation lawsuit or a trademark infringement suit.

You would be smart to have your video game use created names. The use of created names should not affect the game's concept or play. Otherwise, if you are intent on using real names, I recommend getting written permission from those whose names you wish to use and who hold rights in the trademarks - or have a publishing law professional check out your game for legally problematic areas and advise you on the risks and how to best insure your game to cover these risks.

Good luck.
 
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#4
It can be tricky to use the names of real people and the names of real places in promotional (or other commercial) material without authorization from those people or entities whose names you will be using.

The Humane Society often rescues dogs from puppy mills, for example, and stories are published about the dogs that are rescued and the inhumane conditions from which they were rescued. Photos and videos are often included to illustrate the stories.

While the states where these puppy mills are located are mentioned - and that is okay - great care is taken to avoid mentioning the names of the puppy mills or the owners of the puppy mills. All funds raised can easily be wiped out with one defamation lawsuit or a trademark infringement suit.

You would be smart to have your video game use created names. The use of created names should not affect the game's concept or play. Otherwise, if you are intent on using real names, I recommend getting written permission from those whose names you wish to use and who hold rights in the trademarks - or have a publishing law professional check out your game for legally problematic areas and advise you on the risks and how to best insure your game to cover these risks.

Good luck.
Thanks so much! We will definitely create names for them as well then.
 

quincy

Senior Member
#6
Thanks so much! We will definitely create names for them as well then.
That is certainly what is safest legally.

I like your way of raising awareness and funds for the animal rescue organization. I wish you good luck and good success with your game.

Thanks for the thanks. :)