To name it or not name it...

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Brien Sz
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To name it or not name it...

Postby Brien Sz » Mon Jan 01, 2018 2:29 pm

I want my main character to walk into her house and tell her Alexa device to play some music. The question is, do I write, 'Alexa' or not? Would I be better off calling it's more proper term, intelligent personal assistant (which sounds boring let alone confusing) or something more universally generic so I don't date myself as I am sure 'Alexa' will go through many alterations as time passes.

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ostarella
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Re: To name it or not name it...

Postby ostarella » Mon Jan 01, 2018 6:08 pm

Unless you're writing a "generic future" I'd go with whatever terms are in use at the time of the story. If you're writing the generic future, you can call it whatever you want.

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Re: To name it or not name it...

Postby robjvargas » Mon Jan 01, 2018 7:40 pm

Alexa is a trademarked brand name. If you wish to publish your writing, you'll need to license it. It's a whole lot easier if you come up with a fictional name for it, whether generic or not.
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Re: To name it or not name it...

Postby wdarcy » Mon Jan 01, 2018 9:06 pm

robjvargas wrote:
> Alexa is a trademarked brand name. If you wish to publish your writing,
> you'll need to license it. It's a whole lot easier if you come up with a
> fictional name for it, whether generic or not.

Not sure about this. For example, can one not mention that a character uses an iPhone without running afoul of the law?

--Warren
"Wagner's 'Das Rheingold'" (Oxford 1993). Winner of the Society for Music Theory's Wallace Berry Award, 1995.

"Elements of Sonata Theory" co-authored with James Hepokoski(Oxford 2006). Winner of the Society for Music Theory's Wallace Berry Award, 2008.

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robjvargas
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Re: To name it or not name it...

Postby robjvargas » Mon Jan 01, 2018 11:57 pm

wdarcy wrote:
> robjvargas wrote:
> > Alexa is a trademarked brand name. If you wish to publish your writing,
> > you'll need to license it. It's a whole lot easier if you come up with a
> > fictional name for it, whether generic or not.
>
> Not sure about this. For example, can one not mention that a character uses an
> iPhone without running afoul of the law?
>
> --Warren

Think of it a different way: Is it worth the potential trouble? If a publisher doesn't want the trouble, they'll tell you to remove it. Does the brand name play such an important role that you even want to deal with it?

It's not for me to answer that for you or Brian. I'm no lawyer, so I can't really advise on this. But I know that some companies (Disney, most notably) defend their trademarks ferociously.

Trademark isn't like copyright. If you let people "get away" with using your trademark too much, you can actually lose the trademark.

Get the advice of an intellectual property lawyer, and be aware that Amazon may or may not care. Are you prepared if they do care?
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ostarella
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Re: To name it or not name it...

Postby ostarella » Tue Jan 02, 2018 12:54 am

I don't think mentioning a trademarked name is grounds for a lawsuit. Stories mention Pepsi or Coke or airline names - no one gets sued for that. Now, if you mentioned Alexa in a disparaging way, that might cause some problems, but your publisher and/or attorney could give you the legalese on that. But trademark infringement is usually concerned with a different product trying to horn in on the reputation of the original.

May want to take a look through this: https://www.uspto.gov/page/about-trademark-infringement Certainly not as good as an attorney's opinion, but at least you will have a general idea of what's allowed.

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Brien Sz
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Re: To name it or not name it...

Postby Brien Sz » Tue Jan 02, 2018 7:01 am

I use the device in an almost passing fashion. She walks into the room and asks Alexa to play music from her favorite's list. It flows better than writing, she walks into the room and asks her digital personal assistant to play music from her favorite's list. The second sentence, if anything, is more confusing. If anyone has another word for what Alexa is, I'm all ears.

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Re: To name it or not name it...

Postby robjvargas » Tue Jan 02, 2018 7:17 am

I don't know about confusing. Star Trek got along just fine with "Computer."

Do you even have to say what it is?

She walks into the room and calls out, "Play relaxing music." The soothing instrumental of a string quartet starts flowing through the room.

Does it matter that it was Alexa, Cortana, or Google Dot that responded to her command?
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Brien Sz
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Re: To name it or not name it...

Postby Brien Sz » Tue Jan 02, 2018 8:56 am

That can work too. Thanks. I guess at this point in our culture, the action of calling out doesn't have to be explained.

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Re: To name it or not name it...

Postby wdarcy » Tue Jan 02, 2018 12:23 pm

If Stephen King were sued every time he used a brand name in his novels, he'd be a pauper now.

I've read lots of novels that mention brand names of beer, whiskey, etc. Or car makes. Can we not say a character drives a Buick or a Chevy? Do we have to just say "car"?

I think the only possible problem with any of this is if you or your characters made a disparaging remark about a brand name, a car make, a restaurant, etc. I would never do that.

--Warren
"Wagner's 'Das Rheingold'" (Oxford 1993). Winner of the Society for Music Theory's Wallace Berry Award, 1995.

"Elements of Sonata Theory" co-authored with James Hepokoski(Oxford 2006). Winner of the Society for Music Theory's Wallace Berry Award, 2008.

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