Can I mention a drug by licensed name?

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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Can I mention a drug by licensed name?

Post by Helenoran462 »

In my novel, one of my characters says she's taking Prozac (she isn't) as a way to cope with her tedious and much-hated office job.

I'm probably being overly cautious, but pharmaceutical companies are very protective of their products and I'm not sure how Eli Lilly would be about me using the name of a drug (and in a jokey, not very complimentary way) which they have fiercely defended in court several times.

Should I just stick with the generic 'anti-depressants', do you think? I know Prozac is the trademark name for fluoxetine, but most people wouldn't know what that is.
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Re: Can I mention a drug by licensed name?

Post by AndyJ »

Hi Helenoran,

Yes, I think you are being overly cautious! Just as you can freely use the word Prozac here in framing your question, so can you use it in a work of fiction. There is absolutely no copyright protection for a single word, nor for something like the name of a pharmaceutical product which cannot aspire to be a literary work.

As you know, the only protection the name might garner is from trade mark law. Prozac has been registered as a trade mark by Eli-Lilly a number of times but that protection only extends to prevent others trading under that name. To infringe, a mark has to be used in the course of trade. It doesn't prevent the use of the word in normal everyday speech. Or indeed in the title of books and films. And to guard against companies making spurious threats against the innocent use of trade marks, there are provisions in law to prevent this. Even if an over-zealous lawyer working for Eli-Lilly decided that your book had somehow defamed the product he would need to prove that your use had resulted in serious harm to the company which had caused or was likely to cause the company serious financial loss (section 1(2) of the Defamation Act 2013). That's not very likely, I suggest.

Good luck with the book.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
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