I confess I like to use the names of local products when I write like Boudreax's Butt Paste and Community Coffee. I think they add flavor to the text. I was always told that a casual usage with no malicious intent fell into the category of fair usage. You aren't trying to steal their idea or make money off their product in any way and in fact, might be giving them some free advertising. I mean, don't companies pay for placement in movies? Recently, I went to see Last Vegas, a fine movie for grownups, and there aren't many of those coming out. As the men separated at the airport, they entered a gate prominently labeled Southwest Airlines. Tell me that wasn't paid for. Seems authors should be getting a percentage, too, but we never will.
My new publisher is phobic about any mention of brand names. For instance when in Washington state, my characters can't drink a certain coffee starting with an "S" and bearing a mermaid on the label that originated there. Nope, they just imbibe plain old coffee. Nor can they eat donuts bearing the initials KK (you figure it out). Around here, we go out of our way for those donuts and once had a shop where you could watch a waterfall of glaze fall on the freshly baked pastries. Kind of miss that, but you won't find them in my books anymore. Donuts are bad for me anyhow.
I do understand their concern. One of their authors was ripped to shreds by Disney, the most vicious protector of their trademarks, for using the Z word in her title. The Z word involves a folk hero who wears a black mask and whose name means Fox in Spanish. You know who I mean. Poor woman had her books taken off the market for this terrible offense because somehow her puny profits might hurt Disney-who got the name and the story from a romantic adventure novel published in the early 20th century. Most of their TMed characters are lifted from folklore and early 20th century books. Heaven forbid we use any reference to an certain heroine with a pumpkin coach whose story was collected by a Frenchman in the seventeenth or eighteenth century as a folk tale. One source I checked claims we can use the term Seven Dwarves, but not the Disney names for them or their images. Actually, that one seems fair to me. So fellow authors, watch your step or the big, bad D will get you.
Okay, got that off my chest. I don't think my blog is read by many, but here's a heads up to those who do. A Trashy Affair, not a Sinners novel but one of my very best, is going up for its free week on November 19th on the Kindle. If you haven't gotten it yet, here's a chance to see how I write about a subject other than football players. It is spicy, but I pretty much guarantee that if you like my books, you will love this one. And if you do, please spread the word. Thank you very much.