Can I drive a Ferrari?

What’s the stance of using trademarks such as car companies and brands in a CoG/HG? I have the knowledge and itch to make a very realistic and researched racing storygame (think Initial D, Capeta style).


If you have a trademarked name in the title, I think you are asking for trouble. But putting your character in a specific make of car is more like product placement. Ian Fleming did it all the time with James Bond.

Don’t worry, the title would most def be “Need 2 Speed: Kyoto Drift” (sarcasm!)

I know app games/GTA can’t use pictures/3d models of real life cars. But how does that translate with text? Can I describe what a Mustang looks like?

Yes but you’d want to be sure the text is neutral or complimentary about the vehicle. Nothing that could even be inferred as negative.

Depending on the specific laws of your country an honest evaluation of the positives and negatives might work too even in obvious entertainment media it can either still be called “reflective journalism” or, if your game, has an otherwise over the top or comedic undertone you might be able to succesfully invoke your applicable parody exception.

I forget what the exact rules for it are, I remember reading up on it a couple of years back when I war working on something that did involve real life branding.

But the basic gist of it is that using brands and trademarks from the real world are usually free to be used in your story up to a point. If you disparage a product or a brand in your story to the point of the company being able to call it slander, then you’re on shaky ground. But just having your character drive a Ferrari and wear a Rolex is fine.

The practice of including widely used real-life products in fictional settings is so common that the owners of the trademarks usually don’t act on it even when it goes past free-use. Like I said before, if the product or brand is used or referred to in a way that can be seen as an attack on the company, then they might have issue with it.

You could always send the company an e-mail asking what their policy is on being featured in literacy. I wouldn’t count on getting an e-mail back necessarily, but if you do then it would clear up some things for you.

Note that a trademark owner *can* protest the use of their trademark in any form or fashion, including in a game (commercial or otherwise). The only time that they are likely to do so is if they believe the use of the trademark is damaging / reducing the value of the trademark. This can happen in many way, but the most common are:

  1. The trademarked term is used in a negative way (as has been pointed out).
  2. The trademarked term is being used to market / encourage users to purchase the game (especially if an official endorsement is implied).
  3. The content of the work is sufficiently offensive that nobody wants to be associated with it (putting a Ferrari in a “white pride” game is probably going to generate an objection).

In the vast majority of cases, though, trademark holders tend not to bother too much, but be aware, that they *can* do so at their whim.

I think it’s a little absurd. I’ve seen things on like practical joke TV shows where Nike will blur out their product or some other brand will.

But take Battle Royale. A *very* memorable quote (to me), the guy says “Do you like Ferraris?” and the girl says “Ferrari…italian trash!”

Is it characterization or slander? Did Ferrari sue Battle Royale? I don’t think so. I think you can say pretty much anything you want, except when a large portion of your game is devoted to slamming Ferraris, where the game conceivable could change its title to “A**holes drive Ferraris” and it would still make sense…then I think that would cross the line.

But, as mentioned, games like GTA and Watch Dogs haven’t been able to get release to portray real life cars in games. Probably over fear that seeing their cars run over pedestrians and destroy cities is bad for business. They also have a lot more revenue coming in.

Even games like Gran Turismo lost contracts once and couldn’t do an entire market of cars. Porsche signed an exclusive deal to only be portrayed in a certain PC/Gameboy game, so Gran Turismo couldn’t use it for years…no animosity on Porsche’s part, but as this article points out, things change!

These are games that focus on car driving to succeed though. If a character just owns a Porsche and a bottle of Coke, you’re not really making a “Porsche” game, you know? Even if they get onto you, you could switch it with a text find/replace, so I wouldn’t worry.