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I live in Canada and I am intending to write my autobiography. I am wondering if I can use the name of companies I worked for and describe negative experiences that happened in the workplace without incurring some legal issues with these companies. My intention is to describe how I have been harrassed. Some harrasement that is hard to prove. At least I can raise awareness about what is happening in some companies.

My question is if legally I am allowed to do that.

  • I am not a lawyer but I don't think it's laws that prevent you from doing that (if there is free speech in your country) but corporate lawyers. See Pros and cons of using real brand/company names? on Writing SE. – IkWeetHetOokNiet Dec 18 '19 at 20:58
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The answer from @user6726 evaluates potential claims to evaluate.

Defamation is not actionable if true, even in Canada, which doesn't mean that you couldn't be sued and have to litigate to prevail. Ideally, you would like to say only things that you can prove or at least convincingly suggest are true.

Copyright violation certainly wouldn't arise just from mentioning the name of your employer, and an autobiography would rarely contain large potentially infringing content for which the employer is an author.

Also, it wouldn't be a trademark violation because this would be "nominative use", i.e. to describe a company rather than to try to sell goods purporting to be from the company or to be endorsed by the company.

Invasion of privacy is normally limited so particularly sensitive matters discussed in confidence (e.g. a mental health therapy session or a sexual encounter or a password to financial accounts), and not work-a-day interactions with co-workers or bosses. The content of the account would determine if this is an issue.

A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) would be the biggest concern, but, even then, it would be rare for a non-disclosure agreement to prevent mention of the name of your employer and when you worked for by name. Usually the NDA sets forth in great detail exactly what must not be disclosed and in many kinds of work an NDA is limited to what amounts to "trade secrets", while other disclosures are allowed. Hence, revealing the the CFO has a foul mouth and like to dip Sushi in beer probably wouldn't be covered in many NDAs, while revealing secret recipes, trading formulas, customer lists, and the like probably would be. Not all employers, even major ones, have NDAs for all employees either. Also, often an NDA has a fixed term and ceases to apply a certain number of years after your employment ceases, which could mean that you need to delay your publication date a little.

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There could be negative consequences, so you should discuss this with your lawyer (a lot of specifics would have to be revealed). First, you could be sued for defamation. Second, you could be sued for violation of contract, involving a non-disclosure agreement. Third, you might be sued for copyright violation (depends on whether you copy text written by others, without permission). Fourth, you might be sued for invasion of privacy, though that is more province-dependent.

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  • If I change one letter in the company name, I am gonna be fine right? – Karim Mtl Dec 25 '19 at 0:20
  • better to say "a large electronics company in California" – George White Dec 25 '19 at 1:57
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    If you refer to Malmart or Pam's Club, it's obvious who you're referring to, and you're not protected from a lawsuit over defamatory statements if people can still identify the party that you're defaming. – user6726 Dec 25 '19 at 2:00

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