I am a self-published author, and I have written a humorous parody novel about Navy SEALs. (And I plan to put a disclaimer on the copyright page of my novel that I am not a Navy SEAL, former Navy SEAL or associated with the Navy in any way.) My novel is titled NAVY SEAL RESCUE. I put the cover, which is clearly humorous, into a writers' forum asking for feedback on the cover's artistic merits, and a couple of people said I couldn't use "NAVY SEAL" in the title, and this one person said I couldn't even have Navy SEAL characters in the book without obtaining authorization and/or a license from the US Department of Navy. Other people said I had a first amendment to publish "NAVY SEAL" on the cover and within the book without contacting the US Department of Navy to obtain authorization/license. The post that troubles me (from a fellow self-published writer, who identified herself as not being an attorney) is as follows:
Trademarks are not copyrights. There are no fair use clauses in trademark laws. A trademark cannot be used, without authorization of the mark owner, for satire, educational purposes, parody, or anything else. And a cease and desist letter is not required before a mark owner can drag a violator into court.
Although not surprised by the number of excuses on why using a trademark without permission is OK, it is disappointing to see, here, writers who depend on the honesty and integrity of others to protect their intellectual property to spend so much time making excuses for breaking the law. The old question, "How would you feel if someone was stealing your stuff for profit?" may be appropriate to ask, too.
Because I've done the song and dance (applied for and received various licenses for several projects) with the military over this issue, I strongly urge any one who isn't a licensed attorney to contact the Navy at the addresses and/or phone numbers listed below if you feel the information provided at http://www.navy.mil/trademarks/intro.html is incorrect. Basic questions are most quickly answered via email, and the application process is fairly simple.
Department of the Navy
Office of Naval Research
Office of Counsel
875 N. Randolph Street
Arlington, VA 22203
From a previous post, the writer has clearly stated that I can not use "NAVY SEAL" on the cover or within the book itself without authorization/license from the Department of Navy.
1) Can I use "NAVY SEAL" in my title and on the book's cover without authorization/license from the Department of Navy?
2) Can my characters in the novel be Navy SEALs without authorization/license from the Department of Navy?
3) Since my Navy SEAL characters are bumblers (think "Stripes" or "Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C") and basically idiots doing idiotic things, will the Navy lawyers have a basis for suing me even though the novel is clearly fiction and clearly a parody?