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MediocreGolfer

questions about "Navy SEAL" usage in a humorous novel

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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.

By Mail:
Department of the Navy
Office of Naval Research
Office of Counsel
875 N. Randolph Street
Suite W515A
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.

 

My questions:

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?

 

Thank you

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3 hours ago, MediocreGolfer said:

1) Can I use "NAVY SEAL" in my title and on the book's cover without authorization/license from the Department of Navy?

 

No.

 

3 hours ago, MediocreGolfer said:

2) Can my characters in the novel be Navy SEALs without authorization/license from the Department of Navy?

 

No.

 

3 hours ago, MediocreGolfer said:

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

 

Yes.

 

What part of infringe don't you understand.

 

Ironically, while searching for information about your questions I came across the following article from 2011 regarding a trademark dispute between the US Navy and Disney. Disney backed off.

 

http://www.clancco.com/wp/2011/05/trademark-pop-culture-entertainment/

 

I don't understand why people like you always want to do an end run around consent. You want the US Navy to come down on you and take every penny you ever make on your book? Not to mention the tens of thousands you'll spend on a lawyer.

 

Good luck with that.

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15 hours ago, MediocreGolfer said:

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.

 

I really hope this isn't any indication of your abilities as a writer.

 

 

15 hours ago, MediocreGolfer said:

There are no fair use clauses in trademark laws.

 

This is awkwardly phrased, but it's not correct that the concept of "fair use" doesn't apply in trademark law (although it is correct that "fair use" is more commonly used in relation to copyright law).

 

 

15 hours ago, MediocreGolfer said:

A trademark cannot be used, without authorization of the mark owner, for satire, educational purposes, parody, or anything else.

 

Nonsense.

 

 

15 hours ago, MediocreGolfer said:

Can I use "NAVY SEAL" in my title and on the book's cover without authorization/license from the Department of Navy?

 

Can you?  Of course you can.  Is it legal to do so?  Probably, and I'm not sure where "adjusterjack" got the idea otherwise.  However, no one on any internet message board is in a position to give you an absolute thumbs up.  That's why legitimate publishers have in-house attorneys and run clearance reviews on anything they publish.

 

 

15 hours ago, MediocreGolfer said:

Can my characters in the novel be Navy SEALs without authorization/license from the Department of Navy?

 

Yes, and it would be legal to do so.  You can also legally write about them driving a Prius while eating Big Macs and drinking Coca-Colas without getting permission from Toyota, McDonald's and The Coca-Cola Company.

 

 

15 hours ago, MediocreGolfer said:

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?

 

No.  It would run afoul of the First Amendment if an unflattering portrayal could be used as a basis for a lawsuit but a flattering portrayal could not.

 

 

11 hours ago, adjusterjack said:

Ironically, while searching for information about your questions I came across the following article from 2011 regarding a trademark dispute between the US Navy and Disney. Disney backed off.

 

http://www.clancco.com/wp/2011/05/trademark-pop-culture-entertainment/

 

Coincidence is not irony, and there's nothing ironic about this.  Nor does the situation described in the article have any relevance to the OP's situation.

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14 hours ago, adjusterjack said:

 

No.

 

 

No.

 

 

Yes.

 

What part of infringe don't you understand.

 

Ironically, while searching for information about your questions I came across the following article from 2011 regarding a trademark dispute between the US Navy and Disney. Disney backed off.

 

http://www.clancco.com/wp/2011/05/trademark-pop-culture-entertainment/

 

I don't understand why people like you always want to do an end run around consent. You want the US Navy to come down on you and take every penny you ever make on your book? Not to mention the tens of thousands you'll spend on a lawyer.

 

Good luck with that.

Thank you for the reply. I appreciate it.

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2 hours ago, pg1067 said:

 

I really hope this isn't any indication of your abilities as a writer.

 

 

 

This is awkwardly phrased, but it's not correct that the concept of "fair use" doesn't apply in trademark law (although it is correct that "fair use" is more commonly used in relation to copyright law).

 

 

 

Nonsense.

 

 

 

Can you?  Of course you can.  Is it legal to do so?  Probably, and I'm not sure where "adjusterjack" got the idea otherwise.  However, no one on any internet message board is in a position to give you an absolute thumbs up.  That's why legitimate publishers have in-house attorneys and run clearance reviews on anything they publish.

 

 

 

Yes, and it would be legal to do so.  You can also legally write about them driving a Prius while eating Big Macs and drinking Coca-Colas without getting permission from Toyota, McDonald's and The Coca-Cola Company.

 

 

 

No.  It would run afoul of the First Amendment if an unflattering portrayal could be used as a basis for a lawsuit but a flattering portrayal could not.

 

 

 

Coincidence is not irony, and there's nothing ironic about this.  Nor does the situation described in the article have any relevance to the OP's situation.

Thanks very much, pg1067. That really clears things up for me. And thank you for the excellent article on using trademarks in fiction. I really appreciate your help.  :)

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