I'm working on a computer game, where the player will be controlling a fictional country in the 1950s.

I want to make it possible for the player to purchase products with real life brand names. For instance, the player should be able to equip his transport company with Ford trucks, his air force with Grumman air planes, his army with Browning rifles etc.

I have absolutely no intent to defame any of these brands. However, for the purpose of making the game interesting I really need to give different properties for products from different brands. A North American F-86 Sabre fighter would be a faster airplane than a Bell P-39 Airacobra, for instance.

If I show good faith by using a documented approach, like sourcing all product specifications from wikipedia, and not inventing any of my own, would it be reasonable to say no defamation/tarnishing would be happening?

I could of course invent my own brand names, but that would diminish the sense of realism in the game. I'd like to be able to sell the game in the EU and USA at least.

Can I use trademarked brand names in my game?

Edit: Having researched this a bit more, I've found that the original Transport Tycoon game had to invent fictional trains, buses, airplanes etc because of trademark-issues. Doesn't bode well for my idea ...

  • 1
    Have you got permission from the trademark holder?
    – user4657
    Sep 9, 2017 at 21:00
  • I haven't actually started using any trademarked names yet, but my plan would be to populate the game with several hundred real, historical, products. I think it would be too much work to get permission from all of these companies. Also, some of them don't exist anymore.
    – avl_sweden
    Sep 9, 2017 at 21:02
  • I would much appreciate to know the reason for the downvote. Off topic? Poorly worded? Please help me fix it if so!
    – avl_sweden
    Sep 9, 2017 at 21:03
  • 3
    At a guess, "This question does not show any research effort" seems to describe this. The existence of a trademark is entirely separate from the existence of the company which first registered it, and the point of trademark is that an implicit tarnishing of the brand occurs by allowing its use on/by products which it wouldn't cover. The owner of the mark might be okay with it (hence permission, implied or explicit) or they might really dislike it.
    – user4657
    Sep 9, 2017 at 22:48

1 Answer 1


You can use someone else's trade mark to refer to their goods or services.

You cannot use it in a way that may cause confusion in the public that your goods and services are related to theirs - Prima facie using them in the way you describe would do this.

You also cannot damage their reputation - these are weapons systems - are you 100% sure that all the ways a player could use them in a game are what the trade mark owners would want to be associated with?

  • 1
    In the US the rule against damaging the reputation of the trademark holder has been significantly limited.by caselaw. US courts have held that the First Amendment means that trademark law cannot be used to suppress criticism or negative comments about a product or its manufacturer, and that other actions for negative effects must be balanced against free speech rights,. Jun 28, 2021 at 21:14

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