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My wife is a big fan of a certain toy company and has a huge collection. She is toying* with the idea of opening a small museum showcasing her collection.

Is it legal to name the museum "The [Toy-Company] Museum" ?

If the name is illegal, what about naming the museum something generic like "Retro childhood toys museum" and showcasing an section devoted to this company? would this be legal?
(the section would be named using the company name)

Thanks!

* - pun intended

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My gut response without really analyzing it (which is honestly what a lot of these cases boil down to in the end) is that the proposed name would imply an affiliation with the company that does not exist. A case challenging that name could be expensive and come out either way.

Instead, "The [Wife's Name] Toy Museum" with descriptive material in brochures and on a website saying that the exhibits were manufactured by "Toy Company", which is a nominative use that does not imply an affiliation with the Company would be a wiser move.

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Have a look here: https://brickset.com/article/29468/review-lego-museum-prague

This is known as the "Lego Museum" in Prague. If you look at the pictures, it is quite clear that the museum is not run by Lego. This place also includes a shop selling the toy maker's products, which allows them to use the company's promotional materials, like a huge "Lego" sign around it. Whether it is all legal, I can't say, but since the place has existed for many years, it must be at least tolerated by the company.

Apart from legality, it will be helpful if the toy maker can see this museum as a positive, possibly promoting sales, so they see no reason to stop her, even if it's illegal. It might be an idea to see if your wife can combine museum and a shop, just like this "Lego Museum" does, so she can use the name legally (being careful) - and make some money at the same time.

  • I don't know but I would expect that there is a licence agreement between the museum and lego – Topher Brink Oct 7 '18 at 16:58
  • Selling things, however, ensures that the use of the trademark is "in commerce", so I'm not sure that's a good idea (unless permission is obtained.) – D M Oct 7 '18 at 17:11
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The key thing here is not to imply that this venture is authorized by or affiliated with Toy-Company when it isn't. Something like "Jane Doe's museum of Toy-Company toys" makes that clearer, and a disclaimer that says that this museum is to display some of the history of Toy-company's products, but is not endorsed by or affiliated with the company might well help. But it might be a good idea to consult with a lawyer who works on trademark issues in your specific jurisdiction. A single consult might not be so very expensive.

Or you might be able to reach out to the company and secure their permission. They might be very happy to have such a thing created under appropriate limits. If you once have permission, all these problems go away.

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IANAL

Slightly off question but have you thought about talking to the company (or if the company doesn't exist anymore, try and find out who owns the IP and talk to them)

You might find that they are receptive and give you permission to use their name in your museum name. If they are not receptive then you can still have the museum just you have to be careful to not imply any link with the company, which is the situation you would be in if you hadn't contacted them. So in a sense talking to them will either improve your situation or keep it the same, there is not a loose situation.

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