Copyright · Trademarks

My site promotes local businesses. Can I legally use any of their names in my ads?

Eric Gaze

August 17th, 2016

I run a website that promotes local businesses. Can I legally use any of their names in a magazine ad for my site? 
If not, what would be required to do so safely?

 If it matters, we're based in CA. 

Irwin Stein Very experienced (40 years) corporate,securities and real estate attorney.

August 17th, 2016

A lot depends on what you say and the context in which you say it. To be perfectly safe, obtain their permission in writing.

Dr. Conway Licensed Clinical Psychologist; Owner of HELP Behavioral Health Services. In-home/In-facility/In-office/Video Visits

August 21st, 2016

For our website, I posted our local, state, and national associations, with their logos. One of the associations emailed saying we did not have permission to use their name and logo, and asked us to remove it.  I did so and never heard from them again. The other associations never articulated a problem. 

Shel Horowitz is probably correct in that you need permission.
Is it an actual law that you cannot post other businesses' names on your website without permission?

Good question.

Manu

August 17th, 2016

Any online information it's public information, and you can use it. But if you will be adding information such as images, about the business info etc, you will need permission.
Good luck

Eric Gaze

August 17th, 2016

@Irwin - the names are strung together to create a backdrop, like in this image, although obviously not as negative.wpid-00002277.jpg

Eric Gaze

August 17th, 2016

@Manuel - If that is the case, how do Yelp or other sites post info about a business without the business profile being "claimed"? I always figured yelp posted info on their own, while the business could take over their profile, aka: "claim" it, if/when they wanted to. 

Manu

August 17th, 2016

Eric, that company have a telemarketers and representatives contacting businesses and it's a different advertising approach with online reviews. 

This is a totally different scenario compare with your first question regarding magazine ad's "Can I legally use any of their names in a magazine ad"

It looks like you want to be safe publishing, and the only way as Irwin reply, ask for permission.

Irwin Stein Very experienced (40 years) corporate,securities and real estate attorney.

August 17th, 2016

Eric: There is material in the public domain and there is material that is trademarked and copyrighted.  I have seen ads similar to "we beat Costco's prices" questioned. Sometimes not. If you are referring to another business to promote your own there is always the possibility that the other business will not want to be associated with you. Even if you are promoting a local business, context matters. Lawyers, and I am one, can make your life miserable if one of the companies whose name you use takes your meaning or intent differently than you intended it. In this day and age, an ad like the one you just posted could get you in a lot of trouble. Can you see the lawyers letter that says "you included my client on a list of businesses, one of which hires gays (or conversely, refuses to serve gays)."  You are looking for an easy answer to a complex problem. And it does matter what state you are in and into which states the ad might be directed (web ads go to all 50 states).  I feel like a broken record on FD. If you want to do it right and protect your business, hire a lawyer.     

Anupam PMP Director, GIS & Application Development at AAA

August 17th, 2016

Hi Eric, Pretty interesting what you are doing> I have an iOS app that does something similar, but geared towards promoting business at belong to a chamber of commerce. I am open to some marketing arrangements in your region, if you are interested. Check out www.biz2map.com Let me know. Thanks! Anupam

Shel Horowitz I help organizations thrive by building social transformation into your products, your services, and your marketing

August 18th, 2016

Yes, you need permission, Eric. It doesn't matter if you think you're right. As Irwin points out, what matters is if any of the businesses you list feel in any way abused and if they have deep enough pockets to take it up in court.

If these are client businesses of yours, permission should be easy to get. If you have no relationship with them, they shouldn't be in your ad in the first place (and might get you in trouble for deceptive advertising, in addition to the issues that others have raised). Ask--pointing out any advantages to them of inclusion, get it in writing, and be smart and safe. And if you're not getting the permissions, drop this concept. There are 1000 different ways to market any particular business--as a marketing consultant, I can tell you that ads are often the least effective for the investment anyway. Don't get so stuck on this one idea that you let it mess you up forever.

Eric Gaze

August 18th, 2016

Thanks for all the feedback. I had a sneaking suspicion that people could get mad and you confirmed it.  I'll drop the idea. 

Best wishes!