View Full Version : trademarks permissions/bar scene?

02-18-2005, 03:39 PM
I am shooting my first full-length film on a dvx100a. It's been a tough shoot, a true labor-of-love and i am primarily relaying on help from friends/family to pull it off along with some non-union actors who are interested in the project.
I wrote a bar scene in the script and actually have attained permissions to shoot in a local redneck bar that would lend itself perfectly to the story. However, what's the deal with all the beer logos? There are Budweiser, Coors, and various other brands advertisements all over the place. I can't possibly get permissions from all these corporations that own these logos.

What to do? Even if I turn the bottles, there are still the beer taps with their logos and I can't really ask the owner to take down all the beer logo mirrors and posters on the walls.

Should I scrap the scene?

02-18-2005, 06:19 PM
This is by no means legal advise and you should talk to an industry lawyer on this.

I have read several times "you can photograph a trademark and include it in your film without permission so long as you are using the mark in the way it was intended to be used"

Here is a related article:


02-18-2005, 06:29 PM
Supersize is a Doc and i believe it falls under some different interpretation of the law than a narrative...better get legal advice. News can do anything....so we simply need to advertise our stories as News Stories ;) maybe not.

02-18-2005, 06:32 PM
a documentary is a little different.. A fictous film needs the proper clearances.. but its pretty easy to get especially for smaller companies, who knows you may even work out some sort of product placement deal. Castaway the movie for example used Fedex.. and Fedex didn't pay for placement but the production got free Trucks and planes and uniforms, and the CEO of Fedex actually became one of the producers.. so you never know what a call to a product company can get you.

02-18-2005, 06:35 PM
Free beer! ;D

02-18-2005, 08:58 PM
This raises another question. I'm shooting a scene where the protagonist looks into a glass storefront. Now it just so happens that there is a perfect glass storefront with the perfect window dressing in a very upscale part of town. If I didn't show any trademarks, nor the stores name. If in fact the scene was shot in such a way that you would never know where/what it was (unless you shopped there or lived near by) would you still need a location release?


02-18-2005, 09:28 PM
Yes, for the location you're shooting on otherwise you're liable for Trespassing. If your image goes across the street, that's fair game, but check into 1st..

02-19-2005, 01:15 AM
OK. This has been bothering me for a while. Why do we need permission at all? Has anyone ever actually been sued and lost the case?

Trademarks are...well...trademarks. They are used to prevent you from doing things like bottle discolored water, labelling the bottles "Coors", and selling them to the unsuspecting public...not to prevent you showing a bottle of Coors to someone else.

"A trademark includes any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination, used, or intended to be used, in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others, and to indicate the source of the goods. In short, a trademark is a brand name. "

"Trademarks protect the product identifiers — the names, logos and general visual attributes that distinguish a business from its competitors. The primary purpose of trademarking is to prevent consumer confusion over the origin of the products. If someone put up some golden arches and started peddling burgers, for instance, McDonald’s® could sue for unlawful use (infringement). "

If a Budweiser sign is in a bar in a film, no one will be confused about anything....

So what's the deal?


02-19-2005, 01:47 AM
So...I went webbing, looking for case law and such. Info of any kind about this...

Here're some more quotes from various soources:

"Not all product placements, however, require the permission of the manufacturer. In the case of "Erin Brockovich," which features an unflattering portrayal of corporate wrongdoing by Pacific Gas & Electric Co., the filmmaker was not required to obtain the company's permission to use its name, because the film's plot centered around actual events involving the company. In addition, if a product or service is used in the same way that it is used by the general public, the filmmaker need not seek the company's permission."

"Unfortunately, the fact that Philip Morris USA does not engage in product placement does not mean that our brands are never shown. Some producers and directors choose to depict Philip Morris USA brands in their work without our permission. But we are limited in our ability to stop all displays of our brands, because federal and state trademark laws, as well as the U.S. Constitution, protect freedom of expression and the "fair use" of trademarks in works such as movies and television shows. This is frustrating for us because our position is clear - we do not want our brands or brand imagery depicted in movies and television shows. "

"Generally speaking, if you use a product positively in a film for the purpose it was intended for (i.e. your character drinks a can of Coke or eats a packet of chips) there should be no problems - you don't have to use generic labelled products. And obviously products which aren't featured in your film (e.g. a packet of Kellogg's cornflakes sitting on a shelf in the background) should also not be an issue.

Problems can arise in two main areas. Firstly, if you show a product in a bad light (i.e. your character drinks a can of Coke then says, "Man. Coke sucks!"), the company that produces it may not be too happy with you. This may constitute what is called 'defamation' of a product, similar to a famous 1997-98 case involving comments made by Ophra Winfrey on her show about the US beef industry.

The second area is a little harder to nail down, and is the best reason why you should involve a lawyer in the final decision of using specific products in your film. Although you may not see any specific problems with using a specific product in your film, a manufacturer or trademark owner could, amongst other things, decide that they don't want their product associated with all or part of your film. This could be for a variety of reasons, but most often because they don't feel that their brand is compatible for the subject matter of the film or the context in which the product appears in your film (for example, a situation where a character in your film uses a Coke can to make a bomb)."

Not only all that, but I found one or two saying filmmakers/television folks have taken to blurring out product names for companies who refuse to pay for having their product shown!

Silliness on both sides of the aisle...


02-19-2005, 03:31 AM
The current issue of Filmmaker magazine has an excellent article on the increasing hassles of getting clearances for footage and clips used in documentaries, subject matter which though not specifically related to the topic of this thread, is nonetheless interesting reading regarding the whole process (and the increasingly difficulty of) obtaining clearances, thanks to the litigious society in which we live.

Besides consulting with an entertainment lawyer, I'd also recommend checking out the book "Clearance and Copyright: Everything the Independent Filmmaker Needs to Know," for a comprehensive discussion of the subject, including information about E&O insurance, fair use, public domain material, and everything else related.

Here's a link to the book on Amazon:


02-19-2005, 12:13 PM

I have my lawyer researching this for me now, but I don't think that is necessarily correct assuming (as is the case) that the shot is filmed on a public sidewalk and that we have the appropriate town permits to do that shoot. There would be no trespass....

02-19-2005, 05:14 PM
Trademarks are...well...trademarks. *They are used to prevent you from doing things like bottle discolored water, labelling the bottles "Coors", and selling them to the unsuspecting public...

You mean the stuff in Coors bottles isn't discolored water...?

02-19-2005, 05:48 PM
Matt I reread your statement and i think i got it wrong. If you're on a public sidewalk and you photograph something not on public property I think you fine as long as your on public property while shooting. If you actually walk onto the property you then need a release. Sorry for the confusion.

02-22-2005, 07:30 PM
It's also much trickier if the image ends up in a commercial. In advertising, you get into the world of "implied endorsement" where the company can then claim that, just by being in your commercial, it implies endorsement of your product, even if the commercial does not actually portray the endorsement...it is implied just by being in the spot. In a commercial, EVERYTHING must be cleared. Another example: in a feature (as was mentioned above), if you swing your camera out onto a public sidewalk in New York and follow your actor down the street with a Steadicam, you may not have to release all of the other people walking down the sidewalk nor the images in the windows (as long as they are not featured). In a commercial, you must. I know you didn't ask about advertising, but I always thought it was an interesting distinction.

02-23-2005, 02:44 PM
You mean the stuff in Coors bottles isn't discolored water...?Defamation suit in waiting... ;)

Other than being that specific - shall we say that American beer is bottled discolored water? :o

Jim Brennan
02-23-2005, 06:23 PM
Well...most of it. There are a few good ones.