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Using private hotel as setting in a book.

Posted: Mon Oct 28, 2019 4:33 pm
by SBI

There is a certain hotel in northern England that I am using as the setting of my book. Can I be sued for copyright infringement for using the actual name? It is a 'Grand Hotel' so the name is kind generic. Even if I change the name the description and location would give it away. I really don't want to have to change the names of the town and locations, but I don't want to be sued either.

Re: Using private hotel as setting in a book.

Posted: Tue Oct 29, 2019 7:17 am
by AndyJ

There shouldn't be any copyright implications attached to this. Names generally cannot be subject to copyright, and one as generic as the Grand Hotel certainly wouldn't qualify because there is nothing original in it.

It is also unlikely that there could be any trade mark issues either, for the simple reason that the words Grand Hotel on their own would have insufficent specificity to be registered as a mark which the public would then associate with a particular hotel, say like the Grand Hotel, Brighton. And secondly, even if the name had been registered as a trade mark (as here for instance) you would not be using the name in the course of trade and so there would be no infringement.

I think the biggest issue you face would be if the fictional hotel was so bad that you ended up defaming the real hotel. That said, it is exceptionally hard for companies or corporate bodies to bring a claim for defamation as they need to show that the words used caused them serious financial loss. Frankly, I would expect a poor Trip Advisor review to do more damage that any fictional portrayal. However it is something to consider, especially if the real hotel is owned by a large group which would have the resources and motivation to protect its image, by hiring smart lawyers to harass you.