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Can I name my company after a fictional company (of the same type) found in a book?

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In Exxon Corp v Exxon Insurance Consultants International Ltd (UK court of appeal), Exxon (the large corporation) tried to claim copyright in their name, saying that they had invented the word. It was held copyright didn't subsist in the word because a literary work has to afford information or pleasure, and their one word couldn't do this. Its very unlikely an author could claim copyright over one word, I don't know of any cases of this happening. So you could probably use it.

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A key question to consider in whether or not this would be copyright infringement is the question of if it's a "derivative work." For example, if you make a book into a movie, you need to license the rights to do so from the author. A business that happens to be named the same, particularly if it's a common kind of business, is not likely to pose an issue. If you think the author of the book would be supportive of there being such a business with the same name, you could consider writing to the author and finding out what they think. They may also have insights that you'd like to be aware of, such as that there's a sequel coming out where that business turns out to be up to some very shady dealings, and you might not want to have your real-life business sharing its name and type, etc.

Sometimes, businesses do cross over from fiction into reality.

For an example of this in practice, check out the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, a real-life business (seafood restaurant chain) with a name inspired by the fictional business of the same name in the film Forrest Gump. That was done with the permission and support of the owners of Forrest Gump.

Also consider Soylent, the originally fictional meal substitute.

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    Doen't the use of Soylent for a food product (even though it's not made of people, so far as we know) an infringement? If not, Why did Bubba Gump need or ask for any blessing? – JTP - Apologise to Monica Jan 29 '16 at 2:29
  • @WBT I also find this a little confusing. Doesn't the fact that they needed the owners' permission imply they feared successful copyright infringement litigation without said permission? BTW that company also uses tons of stuff from the movie in all of its locations so I'm pretty sure it's a business partnership not just permission. – Hack-R Jun 18 '16 at 17:45
  • @Hack-R Even ultimately unsuccessful suits are quite expensive to defend. – WBT Jun 19 '16 at 0:59

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