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Writing Around Trademarks

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Pictured here without his sidekick, Dr. John Wilson.
Princess Clara: Oh my god! It's *Beep* Mouse!
Captain Hero: I should have known you were behind this, Mickey *Beep*.

You have a great idea for a character name. But there's a problem — someone else had the idea first. And they used it... a long, long time ago. Like, before you were born. The character may not even be that well-known (or known at all) today. Too bad — you missed your chance. Better change the name before airtime, or you'll find yourself knee deep in the paperwork of a trademark infringement lawsuit.

If word gets out online, the original name may still be used by the fans. Efforts to have this listed as a violation of intellectual property are no doubt pending. However, certain uses are (at least in the United States) covered under what are known as Fair Use Laws.

We have a page about Trademarks if you're really interested in how they work and are used.

The same reasoning behind many a Stealth Pun.


This is one reason why a character might be Renamed to Avoid Association. Contrast Captain Ersatz, where the writers are trying to use an already existing character but can't. See also Brand X, Bland-Name Product, Disney Owns This Trope, You Wanna Get Sued?, Lawyer-Friendly Cameo, A.K.A.-47, Product Displacement, and Clumsy Copyright Censorship.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Hitomi-chan Is Shy with Strangers: At one point in chapter 42, Kaoru gets Hitomi and Yuu to play some kind of video game. While the controllers are mostly covered up by the characters' hands, what little we can see indicates that they're Nintendo Switch controllers.
  • Whereas he's always Jeep in the manga, the anime version of Cho Hakkai's cute little dragon/car was creatively renamed Hakuryu ("white dragon") for the anime versions.
  • Lupin III was renamed to Edgar de la Cambriole when it aired in France because of complaints from the estate of Maurice Leblanc, the author of the original Arsène Lupin stories. The trademark problems are also notoriously the reason for why the show never came to the US for so long. The first few Lupin films that did leak out of Japan substituted names like "Rupan" and "Wolf" to get around it.
    • And as the story goes, Maurice Leblanc and Arsene Lupin ironically invoke this themselves, as Arthur Conan Doyle thought Lupin's nemesis, an Expy of Sherlock Holmes, was a little too close to this trope than that one (by the name of Herlock Sholmes, and an assistant named Wilson). And that was after Leblanc actually put Holmes in a couple of stories, prompting Conan Doyle himself tell Leblanc to knock that off.
  • The American dub of MegaMan NT Warrior changed the NetNavi AquaMan's name to SpoutMan, unarguably to avoid invoking the other guy's name. While Aqua Man kept his name in both Mega Man 8 and the Battle Network games, it seemed best to avoid using the name on TV. The name change also applied into the sixth (and last) Battle Network game.
  • Really weird example in Bakuman。: The manga is about two manga artists working for the (real-life) magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump, from the company Shūeisha, and it's published in that actual magazine. However, the anime changes the name of the magazine to Weekly Shōnen Jack from Yūeisha, even when they show real-life editors of the magazine that keep their name in the anime. You'd expect Shūeisha to grant them rights to use the trademarks when negotiating the anime adaptation, right?
  • Played for Laughs in an episode of Lucky Star. Kagami is trying to find a Code Geass comic for Konota, but all utterances of the title or the name "Lelouch" are partially bleeped out, while the cover of the comic itself is blurred. Even so, the audience can still make out what she's asking for. It goes a step further in one episode where Konata and her father have an extended conversation about the Gundam franchise (naturally with lots of bleeping). At one point they even show heavily pixelated pieces of official artwork from several series like Victory and Wing.
  • Trademark issues with a barbarian and a TV host forced Detective Conan to be renamed to Case Closed in North America.
  • Billionaire Girl: In the first chapter, the protagonist owns a Dlee computer. The logo is similar to the real-life Dell logo.
  • The English localizations of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure use this extensively, thanks to the copious references to famous songs and musicians. Sometimes the translators find clever ways to preserve the references, like changing Crazy Diamond into Shining Diamond, calling Captain Tennille 'Captain Dragon' (Daryl Dragon is the real name of 'Captain' from Captain & Tennille), or using homophones (such as calling Made in Heaven 'Maiden Heaven'). Most of the time, though, they just resort to using synonyms (like calling King Crimson 'Emperor' Crimson and turning Weather Report into Weather Forecast), sticking to nicknames ('FF' and 'D4C' are used in both original and localization, but the latter insists they are the full names and not merely shorthand for Foo Fighters and Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap) or changing names outright (turning Sticky Fingers into 'Zipper Man' to reference his zipper powers).
    • There is at least one instance where the trope is subverted and a brand name is shamelessly used. In the first chapters/episode of Stardust Crusaders, the jailer wails about how Jotaro suddenly has an issue of Shonen Jump in his cell. This is a perfectly legal plug because JoJo is published by Shueisha and appears in Shonen Jump. Also, because Viz holds all U.S. JoJo-related manga and anime licenses and has the American rights to Shonen Jump, the plug gets preserved in the American release (both anime and manga) of Stardust Crusaders.
    • One story arc in JoJo involves an enemy with the power to bring fictional characters to life and at one point does so with a Disney World guidebook. This includes Mickey Mouse who only appears briefly as a mouse tail in the shadows. All the public domain characters associated with Disney like Pinocchio or Snow White & the Seven Dwarves are heavily stylized and redesigned as so not to resemble their Disney counterparts.
  • Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School zig-zags this by having one character, Gundam Tanaka, never use his first name (which was used extensively in its predecessor) presumably for this reason. Instead, he goes with Tanaka the Forbidden One, which references a different series, and ends up using his real name in the finale anyways. This is likely the same reason his name was officially romanized as "Gundham" in Danganronpa 2, with a silent "h".
  • Although the cute Artificial Intelligence spider tanks from Ghost in the Shell were called Fuchikomas in the original 1989 manga, the developers of the 1997 PlayStation video game adaptation were apparently able to trademark the name and likeness of the Fuchikomas. This is why later adaptations of GitS have to resort to Captain Ersatzes: Tachikomas in Stand Alone Complex, Uchikomas in Solid State Society, and Logicomas in Arise.
  • Perhaps the king of this trope is Anime-Gataris, a show all about getting into anime and related media. Since you can't have a show about discussing anime without the shows themselves, the series gets around the massive amounts of Shout Outs inevitably going to be made by using nameswapped versions of the titles.
  • Full Metal Panic! centers on a paramilitary organization named Mithril, which is explicitly acknowledged as a reference to The Lord of the Rings in the original light novels. In the Animated Adaptation, where they couldn't get away with such a blatant reference, there's a scene where a civilian looks up the name online and gets a Brand X version of Wikipedia that uses text from the real thing but has all the references to J. R. R. Tolkien altered to more generic names like The Lord of the Flame.
  • In No Game No Life, when Sora and Shiro are transported to a near-perfect replica of Tokyo, Sora reassures her by convincing her that it's like playing "Pe*sona", "Ste*ns;Gate" or "Akibas*rip". The anime version of the scene also includes Chie, Makisa and Kati, with black boxes over their eyes, as well as a yellow background that is highly similar to the background used on the menu screens in Persona 4.
  • Some explicit references found in the My Hero Academia manga are absent in the anime. For example, at the beginning of the entrance exam for U.A., in the manga the various kinds of enemies and obstacles are described as being like the enemies from Super Mario games, with silhouettes depicting the four variants of robots used as Goombas, Koopas, Piranha Plants and Thwomps and a silhouette of Mario dealing with them. In the anime the "video game" aspect of the exam is instead shown with a pixelated Present Mic dealing with the robots (shown in their actual designs). Midoriya comparing his Wall Jump ability to Mega Man X was also removed from the anime.
    • For the English versions of the anime, Funimation changed Shihai Kuroiro's hero name from Vantablack to Vantadark, since Vantablack is a trademarked name for a substance which Anish Kapoor has the exclusive right to use in art. FUNi also changed Mirio Togata's move "Phantom Menace" to "Phantom Threat".
    • The 259th chapter includes Chainsaw Man in a big group shot. The trailer for the anime's sixth season shows that he's been changed to avoid resembling him (though both manga are printed under Shueisha, the anime rights are owned by different studios).
  • James Bond is public domain in Japan, but not in America. Therefore, when the anime and manga for Moriarty the Patriot are released in America, James Bond becomes "James Bonde" and "Moneypenny" becomes "Moniepeny."
  • Bastard!! (1988) originally featured a beholder but after complaints from the Japanese branch of TSR (the predecessors of Wizards of the Coast), he became Suzuki Dogezaemon and was given comical arms and legs. The name is a pun on word "dogeza", meaning "apologizing on hands and knees", and "gaze".

    Card Games 
  • The Legend of the Five Rings card game suffered from this big time when the International Olympic Committee decided to enforce its ownership of five linked rings. The cards have a different back now, and you have to use sleeves if you want to use old and new cards...
  • This is the main reason why Yu-Gi-Oh!'s green cards had to be renamed past the first edition. While the original japanese's "mahou kaado" is generic and still in use today, its original direct translation to "Magic Cards" turned out to be a tad problematic. Hence why they are known today as "Spell Cards" instead.

    Comic Books 
  • The reason why Marvel Comics made sure to publish a comic with a character named Captain Marvel every few years was so that the trademark didn't lapse and DC Comics couldn't swoop in and use it with their Captain Marvel (purchased from Fawcett Comics) — the original Captain Marvel. DC renamed the character Shazam for good in 2011 "since that's what a lot of people thought he was called anyway". This has applied to several other Marvel characters: Spider-Woman, Warlock and Penance for example.
  • John Byrne intended to have a character named Dreadface appear in the Next Men comic as an exaggeration of the type of names Marvel gave characters. A few months before the character was due to make his first appearance, an issue of Fantastic Four came out featuring a character called Dreadface. The Next Men character was hurriedly renamed.
  • Several examples involving Intercontinuity Crossovers:
    • A Batman/Punisher crossover introduced a villain who later turned up in Nightwing. The writers dealt with the "where I met this guy before" story by having Nightwing have a rare memory lapse about the other guy ("Out-of-town psycho vigilante. Want to say 'the Puncturer'?") Even if Word Of God claims that a comic crossover is "In Continuity," the characters involved will never speak of it again for legal reasons. They did get away with it concerning that very same crossover, though with the other guy in the Batsuit - Jean-Paul Valley, in his dementia, actually names Jigsaw (a major Punisher villain) as one of those who got put away. It's still in the KnightsEnd trade paperbacks!
    • The events of Marvel Versus DC were presumably considered canon at one point, as Access, a character created for the crossover and who is co-owned by both companies (explaining why he rarely shows up anymore), later appeared in an issue of Green Lantern. However, the events of the crossover could only be vaguely alluded to in subsequent stories, such as when Blue Beetle debuted synthetic webbing he claimed to have gotten from "This guy who just drifted through from some alternate universe recently." Also, in the aforementioned Green Lantern issue, Access stopped just short of explicitly mentioning the Marvel Universe.
      Access: I'm supposed to be the gatekeeper between this universe and the...uh, none of this means a thing to you, does it?
    • Likewise, Kurt Busiek's "Syndicate Rules" story arc in JLA is an explicit sequel to JLA/Avengers, but with the caveat that he couldn't actually refer to The Avengers by name. It's mentioned in the storyline that the Justice League recently teamed up with a group of heroes from another universe to defeat Krona, but the heroes in question are never named or shown. The events of the crossover are again referenced in Trinity (2008), but John Stewart merely refers to the Avengers as "others" who helped the Justice League stop Krona. On the Marvel side of things, the crossover is acknowledged in The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, which again stops short of actually naming the DC heroes and villains. Easter eggs include mention of a certain "league of justice-seeking super heroes" from another reality and Monica Rambeau's entry referencing a battle against an "extradimensional emerald gladiator" whose powers come from will.
  • One of the characters in Rising Stars originally had the superhero name "Flagg" until somebody noticed the previous use of that name in Howard Chaykin's American Flagg!. J. Michael Straczynski settled the matter amicably with Chaykin, and wrote the name change into the comic, having the character renamed "Patriot" by his corporate sponsors because "some guy named Chaykin had the rights to 'Flagg'".
  • The Marvel Comics hero Shang-Chi was created as the son of literary villain Fu Manchu back when Marvel had licensed the rights to the character. This led to an awkward situation where Marvel has 100 percent ownership of Shang-Chi, but is legally barred from ever referring to his father by his most famous name. For instance, there is a humorous moment in Black Panther where T'Challa tries to refer to him as "The Infamous Fu Manchu," only to be interrupted as soon as he reached the "F" in his name. Writers have since gotten around this by referring to him by various pseudonyms, and Ed Brubaker eventually went so far as to have him disfigured beyond recognition in an issue of Secret Avengers. Brubaker made his real name "Zheng Zu," with previous names, including "Fu Manchu," being aliases.
  • A Spawn villain named "Overkill" was renamed "Overtkill" for this reason.
  • Milestone Comics' villain "Holocaust" from Blood Syndicate was forced to have his name changed because of the X-Men villain of the same name. The change occurred at the end of a miniseries featuring the character, My Name is Holocaust; the last scene had the character agreeing to have his name changed for the sake of publicity, and the last line was "Your name is Pyre."
  • In the Youngblood team's first appearance, Badrock's codename was "Bedrock". Rob Liefeld decided to change the name to avoid confusion with the setting of The Flintstones (after a visit from Hanna-Barbera's lawyers.)
  • Oreo is very protective of their trademark cookies, hence Martian Manhunter's snack of choice being retconned into "Chocos." Batman: The Brave and the Bold took it a step further by replacing them with a generic brand of chocolate chip cookies.
  • The Justice League Europe character Crimson Fox was originally called "La Renard Rouge" ("The Red Fox"). However, the creators of a British indie comic called Redfox objected, and asked Neil Gaiman of all people to convince the Justice League editors to change the new heroine's name. It worked, and the character has been known as Crimson Fox ever since, despite not having any crimson on her costume.
  • Hack/Slash had Dr. Herbert West of Reanimator as a significant character for a three-issue arc. "HP Lovecraft's Re-Animator" was proudly emblazoned on the cover of one issue; there was evidently some issue with the "Re-Animator" trademark, as next two covers called him "Herbert West, that guy who likes to re-animate stuff."
  • An interesting example is the comic book Steed & Mrs Peel, based on the TV series The Avengers (1960s). While the TV series creators came up with the title first, they can't use it for a comic.
  • Similarly, Secret Origins #32 tells the Post-Crisis origin of the Justice League. When The Flash suggests "The Avengers" as a possible name for the group, he gets this response:
    Black Canary: Nah. People would confuse us with the other guys. You know—John Steed and Emma Peel.
  • Project Superpowers makes ample use of Golden Age superheroes who have long since lapsed into the public domain. However, though the characters themselves are public domain, in several cases their names are owned by DC or Marvel. This necessitates referring to Daredevil as "'Devil", Yellowjacket as "Jack", the Blue Beetle as "Big Blue", and so forth.
  • Marvel used to publish a Godzilla comic book series (Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1977)), but eventually lost the rights. They were able to use the character a few more times by having him mutated off-screen and then never actually calling him "Godzilla".
  • When Marvel brought the Golden Age hero Amazing-Man into their continuity, they were forced to change his moniker to the Prince of Orphans thanks to DC now having a JSA character with the name Amazing-Man (several of them, in fact). They can still use his civilian name of Johan Aman, though.
  • The Marvel NOW! Avengers relaunch introduced a new hero named Smasher, who has the civilian identity of Izzy Dare. It was initially heavily implied that she was the granddaughter of British comic book hero Dan Dare, but subsequent reprints and collections of her debut issue retroactively declared Izzy's last name to be "Kane" instead, revealing her that granddad was actually the Golden Age hero Captain Terror.
  • The old Doctor Who comics printed in TV Comic, from the tenures of the First and Second Doctors, were only allowed to use the name of the show, the TARDIS and a likeness of William Hartnell or Patrick Troughton, and thus named him "Dr. Who" and gave him a pair of grandchildren, John and Gillian, who were sort of Captain Ersatz versions of the actual companion, Susan, but were really just Ridiculously Average Grandchildren with none of Susan's alien-ness. This was given the Deconstruction treatment in some of the Eighth Doctor comics, in which the Doctor, under the influence of a Negative Space Wedgie, dreams about travelling the universe with John and Gillian in a Lighter and Softer universe with Black-and-White Morality where no-one ever dies. This was also parodied in a Ninth Doctor comic in which "Dr Who" and "Rosie Taylor" (dressed in a beehive hairdo and go-go boots even though she's from 2005) go on a Retraux adventure.
  • For a few years in the mid-2000s, DC Comics did not have the rights to the name Superboy, as they were in legal contention at the time. This was a major problem, since Superboy was an active and popular DC character. There was also a character they had just brought back named Superboy-Prime. They solved the first problem by going ahead and killing the heroic Superboy in Infinite Crisis. Superboy-Prime was renamed "SuperMAN-Prime" — which made sense for the character since he didn't like being treated as a boy — in Green Lantern story Sinestro Corps War and aged up during the finale and throughout Countdown to Final Crisis. When the legal hurdles were solved, Superboy and Superboy-Prime were restored to normal during the Final Crisis tie-in "The Legion of Three Worlds".
  • In 1985 DC decided that Superman should be the only survivor of Krypton and killed Supergirl. In 1988 John Byrne deemed it unwise to let the trademark expire and came up with a non-Kryptonian Supergirl. Eighteen years and four non-Kryptonian Supergirls later DC gave up, revoked the "Last Child of Krypton" policy and reintroduced Supergirl as Kara Zor-El, Superman's Kryptonian cousin.
  • Transformers has a Mirror Universe called Transformers: Shattered Glass. One of the characters is named Sephie Beller, a technophile, Decepticon fangirl, and aspiring Transhuman. Sephie is short for Josephina, which is more commonly abbreviated as Josie. In the original G1 continuity, Josie Beller was paralyzed in an accident, and after a We Can Rebuild Him moment, re-emerged as the Transformer-hating Circuit Breaker. However, the rights to Transformers comics has changed hands over the years, and IDW cannot use either the name Josie Beller or Circuit Breaker, because Marvel Comics still has the rights to them (they made sure to have her appear first in Secret Wars II just for that reason).
  • Played for Laughs in the War of the Realms: Journey into Mystery mini-series. A TV show based on Wonder Man's life is pitched, with The Vision renamed "The Apparition" for licensing reasons.
  • In Spider-Verse #2, two Spideys dash off to reload their webbing during the final battle. As they do, they start talking about some of the other Spider-Men they've seen, but they list them as the one who wouldn't stop singing show-tunes, the one who kept trying to teach English, and two who were unmasked and resembled the guy from Seabiscuit and the guy from The Social Network.
  • In Jack Staff, Paul Grist's legal settlement with the copyright owners of the old British supervillain the Spider (whom Grist had written into the comic in the mistaken assumption that he was public domain) primarily involved a promise never to refer to the character as "the Spider" again, but only by the civilian pseudonym Grist had already given him of "Alfred Chinard". This is a particularly lax example as the rightsholders seem to have no problem with the early issues in which he is explicitly identified as the Spider still being included unaltered in the TPB collections.
  • The last time that Marvel's Micronauts (Commander Rann, Mari, Bug), were referred to as such was in two 1996 issues of Cable. In followup appearances, in Captain Marvel, X-Factor and Universe X, they are called the "Microns". In the Realm of Kings: Son of Hulk, story arc, they are known as the Enigma Force. Additionally, the team no longer includes Mego toy based characters such as Acroyear, Biotron, and Microtron. Commander Rann's outfit no longer resembles his Space Glider toy counterpart very much. Fortunately, the term Microverse dates back to Fantastic Four issues from The '60s. Strangely enough, in the early issues of the original comics, Bug was known as Galactic Warrior in the character roll calls (but never in dialogue), but his design was so unlike his toy counterpart that they could simply drop the Galactic Warrior toy connection.
    • Another Bill Mantlo creation, ROM: Spaceknight, has a similar issue. Basically, since it was based on an action figure, but the action figure was incredibly vague, Mantlo created Rom's origin, abilities, supporting cast, villains, personality, non-costumed appearance, storyline, setting, and nature. Basically, the only things Marvel lost when the rights reverted were the name "Rom" and his armor design. Therefore, elements of Rom's series have popped up with some frequency, and Rom himself has appeared a few times — he's just never wearing his armor, and they aren't allowed to call him "Rom." Conversely, when IDW started writing a Rom series, they had to basically make the character In Name Only, because otherwise they'd get sued by Marvel — though he still turned out mostly being pretty similar.
  • The Comic-Book Adaptation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze got around the Ninja Rap scene with Vanilla Ice by replacing him with an unnamed rapper who looked nothing like him.
  • When Mark Waid brought Quality Comics' speedster Quicksilver into The Flash, he was renamed Max Mercury due to the better known Quicksilver over at the competition. It was later established that Max had used many identities in his 170 years as a superhero, and had indeed been called Quicksilver back in the 40s.
  • Animaniacs: One story features a Godzilla Expy named Gigantasaurus a.k.a. Leon.
    Wakko: He looks just like G—
    Yakko: Whoa, you can't say that!
    Dot: That name is © and ™, you know.
    Wakko: Someone's trademarked Granny?
    Yakko: Those Looney Tunes lawyers at Warner Bros. trademark everything.
    Dot: Go figure.™
  • The "Family Reunion" arc in The Muppet Show Comic Book prominently features Scooter's athletic, fun-loving sister ... who is referred to throughout as "Scooter's sister" because Boom Studios was unsure if having the comic book license to The Muppets included being allowed to use elements from Muppet Babies (1984). Only in her absolutely final scene (after considerable legal negotiations behind the scenes) does she sign a letter to the gang "Skeeter".

    Comic Strips 
  • Peanuts. Charles Schulz originally named his comic strip, which starred a set cast of children characters, Li'l Folks but had to change the title as it had sounded too similar to two other comic strips already published at the time: Al Capp's Li'l Abner and the lesser known (and now pretty much unknown) Little Folks. To avoid confusion and trademarks issues, United Feature Syndicate settled on the name "Peanuts" (much to Schulz' dismay, but went along with this new title anyways), named after the peanut gallery featured in the Howdy Doody TV Show.
    • Snoopy was originally planned to be called "Sniffy," but found out that this same name had already been used for another canine character in an already existing comic strip. That was when Schulz decided to change the dog's name to "Snoopy" instead.

    Films — Animation 
  • An early scene from Monsters, Inc. featured Sully and Mike running into obvious Godzilla knock-off Ted on their way to work. According to the director's DVD Commentary, the original plan was to give a full Shout-Out complete with roar, but since they couldn't get the okay to do so, they went the other way and played the Rule of Funny. You see a large reptilian leg but hear a giant chicken.
  • Helen from The Incredibles was usually referred to as "Mrs. Incredible" instead of "Elastigirl" (no hyphen) outside the context of the first film during its original release due to Warner Bros. owning the trademark on the name "Elasti-girl" (with hyphen). Rita Farr from Doom Patrol had been using the latter name since she was created roughly 40 years before the former. The dispute was amicably settled out of court. Later on, the DC "Elasti-girl was renamed "Elasti-woman", and by the time of Incredibles 2 the "Elastigirl" name was now commonly seen outside the film.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie is about the Nerd investigating the story behind the infamous Atari 2600 game, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Except in the film, the game is presented as "EeeTee: The Extra-Special Alien". The review at the end of the movie was later released as an episode of the original show, with the EeeTee presentation removed and the real E.T. being shown.
  • Sparks of controversy often flare up on the Internet regarding the title controversy of James Cameron's Avatar and the live-action adaptation of the TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender, with the latter film simply being titled The Last Airbender. Despite popular belief, legal action was not involved in the title change—Cameron has no more right to the word "Avatar" than Nickelodeon—but both parties agreed that their films could be hurt by the name confusion and Nickelodeon, having an alternative title to fall back on, decided to change their film's name. Interestingly enough, Cameron began writing the script for Avatar in the 90s, meaning that his Avatar came first. This is also why "Avatar" was dropped from the show's Sequel Series, The Legend of Korra's title in most markets.
  • In the original script drafts for the first Back to the Future, the time machine's Flux Capacitor was powered by Coca-Cola, in a shout-out to the secrecy of Coca-Cola's formula.
  • Brazilian movie Bingo does this to Bozo the Clown, given it is inspired by one of the actors who played him. Not only the name is changed (there is even a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of his creator), but the hair is blue, with a mostly red costume.
  • Deadpool (2016) features an appearance from Bob, Agent of Hydra, who as his name implies, works for Hydra in the comics. However, since Hydra is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (having appeared in the various Captain America and Avengers movies), and this was about two years before Disney (owner of Marvel) bought out Fox's film rights (Fox had the rights to Deadpool), the movie omitted any reference to Bob being a Hydra agent (he's very clearly shown to be an agent of something; what it is is never referred to).
  • Fan Film Dirty Laundry never explicitly states who its main character is, but The Reveal at the end makes it patently clear that we've been watching The Punisher in action the entire time, as if the gruesome vigilante justice didn't give it away already. It even stars Thomas Jane, the same actor who played Frank Castle back in The Punisher (2004) (that, and it was his idea and he bankrolled it). They don't show Frank with a gun as is typical of his appearances, but he does sneak in a line that is all but a dead giveaway.
    "Do you know the difference between justice and punishment?"
  • The producers of the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Eraser had to spend several thousand dollars to rename (by changing every instance in the negatives, as well as re-dubbing dialog) the corporation which the Big Bad led that had committed contractor fraud from Cyrex to Cyrez, as it turned out there was a real corporation, microprocessor manufacturer Cyrix, with an incredibly similar name to what they originally used.
  • When trying to provide a cliche name for the chain diner in Ghost World Terry Zwigoff and Daniel Clowes had to go through a couple dozen possibilities before they found one not currently in use by a real restaurant.
  • The Hobbit trilogy:
    • In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Gandalf mentions two Blue Wizards, but adds that he forgot their names. This is a clever cop-out of a potential lawsuit, as their names were mentioned in Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, a book which Warner Brothers has no legal right to use.
    • The entire Necromancer subplot is a more complicated example. Warner Brothers can use anything mentioned in The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, including appendices, and the basic outline of the whys and whats of Gandalf's doings around The Hobbit can be drawn from that — but the more detailed account is in The Quest of Erebor note  (written as, essentially, Gandalf's perspective on The Hobbit), which was off limits. The end result is that the Necromancer subplot is in broad strokes the same as in The Quest of Erebor, but has to be different in the details because if it wasn't they'd be adapting something they don't have the right to.
  • In Idiocracy, all water, drinks, milk and liquids in the world, with the one exception of Toilet Water, has been replaced by a fictional green sports drink, Brawndo, the Thirst Mutilator!. They use it to water plants, feed babies, you name it. Although the brand was fictional, it is mentioned that it "tastes like Gatorade". According to Mike Judge, they had originally planned to use Gatorade, but Gatorade didn't want to be associated with the film, especially since they would play such a major role in the plot. And thus the fictional Brawndo was born.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • Michael Jackson Films:
    • Man in the Mirror: The Michael Jackson Story was not given Michael Jackson's authorization. While the producers initially got around it by having the actor portraying Jackson re-enact most of the poses used in his album covers and posters, they hit a brick wall when it came to his music. As a result, they could only mention the names of the songs and albums, while scenes showing Jackson on stage used horribly unfitting music that didn't sound even remotely close to the originals.
    • In Michael Jackson's This Is It, During the brief snippet of "History" that played during "They Don't Care About Us", a piece of music heavily resembling "Great Gate of Kiev" is played. In the original clip of the rehearsal that was leaked online, the original "Great Gate of Kiev" is played, but was replaced in the film due to sample clearance issues.
  • In the original script for National Lampoon's Vacation, Walley World was indeed supposed to be Disneyland, but they couldn't secure the license to use the park's name (most likely because the film pokes fun at it), and it became the fictional Walley World. The film still includes shout-outs to Disney, such as naming the park owner Roy Walley (referring to Roy Disney, the company's former executive and Walt's nephew).
  • Possibly the Ur-Example of this is Nosferatu. It's also a prime example of how this trope can blow up in your face. F. W. Murnau wanted to make a direct adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, but Stoker's widow refused permission. Murnau and his team decided to change the names of the characters, simplify the plot, and try to pass it off as an original film. Stoker's estate saw through it in an instant and sued Prana Film for copyright infringement, resulting in the company going bankrupt from paying back the royalties. All copies of the film were going to be destroyed as part of the settlement, and the only reason it's not a lost film is because fans kept circulating the tapes.
  • This was obviously the plan with The Wild World of Batwoman, trying to cash in on the popularity of Batman (1966). DC got wise to it and, for the longest time, it was renamed She Was a Hippy Vampire and had an extra scene added to reveal that the girls were "synthetic vampires". Years later, DC didn't really give two shits about this film and, by the time it showed up on Mystery Science Theater 3000, it was restored to its old title.
  • Witchboard was originally going to be titled Ouija before the producers learned that Ouija is a trademark of Hasbro. The title was changed, but characters within the film still refer to the device as a 'ouija board'.

  • Michael McGarrity's Hermit's Peak had a fake company with a name that had been researched as unused... then it turned out to be used. A second printing changed the name.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe has a weird meta-example. The Tales of the Jedi comic series featured a story arc The Tale of Nomi Sunrider and the eponymous character went off to become pretty important (as in "Head of the Jedi Order in the current era"-important), as did her relatives. However, a real-life company came up with a claim for "Sunrider" and Lucasfilm reacted enough for some legal issues to arise. For the following years Sunrider family was pretty much forgotten and most notably suspiciously absent from the Knights of the Old Republic video game, which references about everything else from the TOTJ series. (Most prominently, the character eventually named Bastila Shan was originally supposed to be Vima Sunrider, an established character from TOTJ.) Lately, however, Lucasfilm clarified that the agreement was reached that allowed Sunriders to appear and be mentioned within stories themselves, as long as the name does not appear in the title of the work in any way. The strangest part, though, is that nobody seems to know who the real-life company that made the dispute is, or what kind of claim they actually had to the "Sunrider" name. Nomi appears in The Old Republic, but appears under the name "Nomi Da Boda".
  • Another weird meta-example happens in The Princess Bride. Goldman, who allegedly is abridging Morgenstern's classic novel, interrupts the narrative from time to time to explain why he was cutting stuff out. The Miracle Max scene involves Fezzik and Inigo having to go get certain ingredients for the miracle pill, and Goldman explains that it feels a little like the Wizard of Oz making Dorothy go get the Wicked Witch's broom, but that the original version of The Princess Bride actually predates The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, so, although it was really Baum ripping of Morgenstern, it comes off the other way round. (In reality, it was Goldman giving a Shout-Out to Baum.)
  • In Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities, characters ride around in BMWs and Mercedes but eat at "Texas Fried Chicken" and use their "Global Express" charge cards to pay for things.
  • German youth book series TKKG with four heroes with their names starting with T, K, K and G respectively, had to rename the athletic protagonist from Tarzan to the more bland Tim.
  • Stephen King wanted the reader to know that, even though Mike Hanlon was scared of the monster in the movie Rodan, the form of a giant flying creature that It took when it tried to kill him was NOT Rodan, only fitting the spirit of the creature.
  • Played for Laughs in My Brother is a Superhero. When Zack gets superpowers, it also causes three glowing stars to appear on his chest. Therefore, he decides to call himself Starman!...until Luke informs him that DC Comics has that name copyrighted. Okay, so he'll call himself Star Boy! Wait, they own that one, too? Finally he settles on "Star Guy."
  • It is very common for Sherlock Holmes pastiches that could run afoul of the very complicated copyright/public domain situation to engage in this by never referring to Sherlock Holmes and John Watson by name. They’ll be exactly like Holmes and Watson in every way, but will only be called "the detective and his companion" or something like that. Neil Gaiman famously exploited this trend to set up The Reveal in his own pastiche, A Study in Emerald; the main characters never being named seems like an attempt to avoid legal trouble, but it’s really because they aren’t Holmes and Watson. They’re Professor Moriarty and Sebastian Moran, and the whole story has been a Perspective Flip of sorts.
  • A Legion of Net.Heroes series was originally named after its lead characters, Airwave and Vigilante Guy. Airwave, however, was already the name of several (admittedly obscure) DC characters, and the author decided better safe than sorry and as of the third issue renamed the character to "Decibel Dude".
  • In the original webcomic version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Greg was into Dungeons & Dragons, but when the books were published, Kinney changed the name to Magik and Monsters. Besides the names, they are basically the same. In the same vein, a reference to Encyclopedia Brown was replaced with the fictional Sherlock Sammy.
  • Philip José Farmer's A Feast Unknown has two main characters obviously based on Tarzan and Doc Savage, but renamed as "Lord Grandrith" and "Doc Caliban", respectively.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In a slightly bizarre reversal of this trope, The Six Million Dollar Man once featured a villain named Barney Miller. Later, an unrelated cop show called Barney Miller hit the airwaves, and became so popular that when producers of The Six Million Dollar Man brought back their villain, they decided to Retcon his name to "Barney Hiller" to avoid confusion with the later, but better-known, character.
  • Parodied in an episode of Frasier, in which Roz comes up with a great idea for a children's story and manages to sell it to a publisher — unfortunately, it turns out that the idea she's given them was Heidi, which her mother used to read to her as a child. And the reason that her publisher didn't pick up on it is that he's younger than she is.
  • On The Dick Van Dyke Show Laura writes a children's book which it turns out is identical to a book from her youth, "The Mouse in the Mudhole". This time the editor does catch the inadvertent plagiarism, and mentions that it happens all the time to first-time children's book authors. Then he says he wrote his own story to go with the illustrations, about a lad who goes into the woods and goes to the animals' houses, sits in their chairs, eats their porridge...
    Rob: Ollie, isn't that Goldilocks?
    Ollie: Goldilocks was with bears. Mine is with Three Little Pigs! Oh dear.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The story "The Green Death" features an evil corporation called Global Chemicals. In the novelisation, they were Panorama Chemicals, because the real Global Chemicals complained.
    • There have been assorted periods throughout Who's history where Terry Nation, enticed by the possibility of having a show or movie entirely about Daleks, had barred Who from using them entirely. In the 60s, this resulted in the BBC desperately hunting for the next big thing, and greenlighting the Ice Warriors and the Yeti. (The Cybermen also got a boost around this time.) After Nation's death, his estate got similar dollar signs in their eyes, and it took lengthy negotiations to ensure the Daleks' presence in the 2005 revival. (Had those negotiations been unsuccessful, the Time Lords' opponents in the Time Wars would've been a race called the Toclafane, a name which later got recycled for the revival's Series 3 finale.)
    • Elsewhere in the Whoniverse, Reeltime Pictures produced a line of direct-to-video films featuring monsters and supporting characters from Doctor Who. The video Shakedown features the return of the Sontarans. One character is familiar with them from a previous adventure (which would later be recounted in a Doctor Who New Adventures novel of the same name), where they had been defeated by a travelling Time Lord whose name the character can't remember. The Dentist, or something.
    • BBV Productions produced a series of audio dramas starring Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred as "The Professor" and "Ace" ("Professor" had been Ace's nickname for The Doctor). The BBC did not find this sufficient, so they were eventually renamed The Dominie and Alice.
    • Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant did a series of videos as The Stranger and Miss Brown, although those eventually developed in a way that made it clear that they did not take place in the Doctor Who universe.
    • The Australian TV series K9 has the rights to the title character, and anything else from scripts written by Bob Baker. However, nothing outside of those scripts is fair game—including the character's appearance, which was created not by Baker but by Tony Harding. Consequentially, seconds after K9 is introduced, he is badly damaged, erasing most of his memory and necessitating the rebuilding of his body into a copyright-friendly form. Didn't stop them from sneaking in (clearly visible) drawings of a Sea Devil, a Mandrel and an Alpha Centauran in the episode "Curse of Anubis" though—of those, only the Mandrel is fair game.
    • The Australian series is also why K9 was only allowed cameos in Series 1 and 2 of The Sarah Jane Adventures—Baker felt having K9 as a regular on another show would hurt the chances of another network picking up his K9 series, which was also about the character helping plucky youngers solve alien-related mysteries. K9 the character was allowed to be a lot more prominent in Series 3, as K9 the show had finally been greenlit—only to quickly disappear again once Baker had trouble getting a second season off the ground.
  • In 1971, NRK-TV introduced a nameless marionette and asked the viewers to name it. After it had became famous as "Titten Tei", Andre von Drei, the freelance designer who had retained the rights to his work but was not involved in the naming, tried selling duplicates of the marionette as "TV Doll".
  • Castle:
    • One episode had an extended discussion about roofies without ever using the drug's trademark name "Rohypnol", everyone used the drug's non-trademarked generic name of "flunitrazepam".
    • In another episode, Castle's agent tells him that he might be about to get an offer to write books about "a certain British spy" who uses lots of gadgets. Everyone manages to get through the entire episode without actually saying "James Bond"; In-Universe, it's because they're trying not to jinx the contract.
    • There was also an episode where Alexis is setting up a profile for Martha on a popular social networking site; Martha tells Castle that she's getting a "My Face" account. Castle starts to say "It's actually called—", but Alexis cuts him off before he can say the name, saying "Don't bother, I've been correcting her all morning". By playing on Martha's eccentricity and unfamiliarity with technology, they manage to write several scenes in which the site is discussed without ever saying either of the real (and trademarked) names, and leaving it unclear which service Martha is actually using.
  • Lampshaded in The Colbert Report's 2010 Vancouverage.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • The episode "Kryten" features a joke about how a crew of long-dead women (who were basically skeletons with clothes and hair) had "less meat on them than a Chicken McNugget." The producers muted the "Mc" before broadcast to avoid litigation from McDonald's, and the edit remained on all home video releases except the Special Edition.
    • However, Pot Noodles have been slated on several occasions (with Lister even preferring dog food over them), mainly because Craig Charles himself despises them. They drew the line at showing a Pot Noodle, though. When Lister discovered the universe's only edible Pot Noodle, the pot is actually of something called "Lot o' Noodles".
  • MythBusters:
    • They once tested some tropes associated with Nocturnal-Echo-Locating-Flying-Mammal-Man.
      Jamie: Batman?
      Adam: Yeah. Shhh!
    • On the other hand, many movies, TV shows, etc. are explicitly referenced (with occasional clips) in the show; entire episodes have been devoted to myths from specific series, including James Bond, MacGyver, Breaking Bad (Vince Gilligan and Aaron Paul even made guest appearances), and Deadliest Catch.
    • However, in general, the MythBusters genericize (read: cover the labels of) all the products they use in their testing. This isn't just because of trademark concerns, but also to ensure that viewers don't try to repeat the sometimes-dangerous experiments themselves. The only exception they made was in the "Diet Coke and Mentos" experiment, because the myth centered on those specific brands. Naturally, Adam had to have some fun with it in one particular episode that required two highly dangerous compounds:
      Adam: "This ingredient is made of Blur. And this has some Blur in it, too. Blur is very dangerous; you don't wanna mix Blur with Blur."
  • During the NBC run of Late Night, one of the show's most popular recurring players was Larry "Bud" Melman, an awkward old man played by character actor Calvert DeForest. When David Letterman jumped ship to rival network CBS to host The Late Show, NBC argued that a number of the Running Gags used on Late Night, including the character of Larry, were their intellectual property and thus could not be used on the new series. Letterman got around this by continuing to feature DeForest as essentially the same character, just with his real name.
  • In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (and the MCU in general) characters that would be called mutants in the comics are called "gifted" instead or are replaced by Inhumans. This is because Marvel sold the rights to the use of the word "mutant" when they sold the rights to the X-Men franchise to Fox.
  • In Farscape, the space mission on which the astronaut hero John Crichton got sucked through a wormhole was under the auspices of IASA, the International Aeronautics and Space Administration. This was because NASA refused to allow its name and logo to be used in the show unless they were given more influence over content than the showrunners were willing to put up with.
  • CSI: NY:
    • In "Sanguine Love," a tube of ChapStick is found at the crime scene and the name is shown in plain view on screen, but the detectives consistently refer to it as "dry lip balm."
    • The references to Facebook pages as "profile pages" in "Who's There?" and "Brooklyn Til I Die" without saying the name of the site.
  • Hannibal is produced by the De Laurentiis Company, who own the rights to the novels Red Dragon, Hannibal, and Hannibal Rising, while MGM owns the rights to The Silence of the Lambs. This effectively means that no characters from The Silence of the Lambs can be used in the series unless a deal is struck (which MGM has, as of this writing, continuously refused). But the writers have worked around it by creating doppelganger characters such as Miriam Lass for Clarice Starling, Franklyn Froidevaux for Benjamin Raspail, and Kade Prurnell for Paul Krendler.note 
  • The name "Superman" is spoken just once in the first episode of Supergirl. He's otherwise referred to as Kara's cousin. However, as the series goes on, he is openly referred to as "Superman," seemingly without any issue. Granted, this is less an example of this trope and more of an excuse to give more prominence to the title character, which would falter a bit if she was constantly referencing the most famous superhero in existence. Superman himself makes a physical appearance in the show's second season. He did have two season one "appearances". In one, he was an amorphous red and blue blob seen falling from the sky at a great distance and in the second he was a pair of dummy legs with blue tights and red boots on a slab.
  • The trailer for Legends of Tomorrow has Rip Hunter tell the gathered heroes that he's seen "Men of Steel die and Dark Knights fall." This is because The CW was not at the time allowed to use those two characters in the "Arrowverse". Superman has since appeared on Supergirl and received his own show, and Batman appeared in the Crisis on Infinite Earths (2019) crossover.
  • The Jacksons: An American Dream re-enacted Michael Jackson's infamous 1984 Pepsi commercial accident but avoided legal issues by simply not mentioning Pepsi at all or using their logos.
  • Played for Laughs by Kamen Rider Zi-O Supplemental Plan episode 6.5, when the characters, bemoaning the fact that Sota Fukushi (Gentaro) and Ryo Yoshizawa (Ryusei) couldn't appear in the Fourze episodes because they were filming Bleach, had every instance of Fukushi, Yoshizawa and Bleach's names bleeped out like a curse word.
  • Playmakers, an ESPN dramatic series about players on an American Football team that overall painted a very unflattering picture of the sport, only ever made reference to "the League" in order to avoid the notice of the National Football League. Unfortunately, the NFL did notice, and forced ESPN to cancel the show despite strong ratings.
  • The final scene of Daredevil Season 3 was a nod to the storyline from the comics where a Japanese scientist named Professor Oyama gave Bullseye an adamantium-reinforced skeleton. However, due to adamantium being mostly associated with the X-Men franchise (whose film rights belonged to 20th Century Fox until Disney bought the company in 2019), the show changed the name of the metal Oyama used to "cogmium."
  • In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Phillies mascot is repeatedly referred to as the Philly Phrenetic in the gang's story, despite being called the Philly Phanatic in real life. It's lampshaded at the end of the episode, when Charlie complains about having to do this to avoid being sued by Major League Baseball.

  • The band Green Jellö were enjoined to change their name by Kraft Foods, makers of Jell-O. They changed their name to Green Jellÿ... which is still pronounced "Jello".
  • The Kinks' "Lola", in some of its releases, alters the line "when you drink champagne and it tastes just like Coca-Cola" to "cherry cola" because the BBC wouldn't play the song if it mentioned a commercial product. The band had to interrupt an American tour so the alternate version could be recorded.
    • Chuck Berry's "Maybellene" suffered the same fate, despite its deliberately misspelled title.
    • Likewise, the Amazing Rhythm Aces had to change a line in their hit "Third Rate Romance" ("They went to the Holiday Inn/Family Inn").
    • And Paul Simon's "Kodachrome" was simply banned completely, since the brand name was used so often in the lyrics and in the title of the song.
    • This is also the reason why the song "Does the Spearmint Lose its Flavor (on the Bedpost Overnight)" was renamed "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavor (on the Bedpost Overnight)".
    • The Cadillac and little Nash Rambler in the Playmates' "Beep Beep" become a limousine and a "bubble car".
  • Post-Waters Pink Floyd couldn't fly an inflatable pig balloon at their concerts anymore, because Roger claimed it was his idea and he was the copyright holder. So, they simply added testicles to it.
  • When The Jackson 5 were signed to Motown records, the company trademarked their name. When they eventually left the label for more creative control, they were forced to rename themselves and became The Jacksons. Speaking of The Jacksons, their song "Heartbreak Hotel" was renamed "This Place Hotel" on subsequent releases, to avoid issues with the famous Elvis Presley song of the same name.
  • The band Relient K is named after the car they use — a Plymouth Reliant K — but to avoid trademark issues, they just changed the spelling.
  • The punk band "Redd Kross" started life as "Red Cross", with the expected symbol as their logo... until the International Red Cross informed them that they were potentially violating the Geneva Conventions, and United States law, by using a "protected symbol" on anything other than a medical facility.
  • The Scottish indie rock band Captain America was a favorite of Kurt Cobain, who sported one of their T-shirts in a photo shoot. Under pressure from Marvel Comics, they changed their name to Eugenius.
  • In 1974, Camel recorded their only instrumental concept album, Music Inspired by The Snow Goose, a top fan choice, and often regarded as their greatest accomplishment. The qualifier "Music Inspired by..." was included in the title as a result of legal threats by Paul Gallico, author of the short story on which it was based. Plans to include narration or write a few lyrics, which could have brought the album closer to being considered legally as a derivative work, were also excluded largely a result of this. note Camel also spent some time at lawsuits drawn over the cover graphics on the album prior to that, Mirage, which were inspired by the Camel cigarette packet design. Legal thrusts from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco lead on to abortive talks on cross-promotion and sponsorship, and eventually no action was taken and Camel just avoided using such graphics in later releases.
  • In 2006, the supergroup Supernova was formed after picking a lead singer via the reality show / singing competition Rock Star. However, an already-existing band of that name (best known for the song "Chewbacca" from the Clerks soundtrack) was granted an injunction against them. Since they couldn't entirely abandon a name that was already so heavily promoted, the band named themselves after their season of the show and became Rock Star Supernova.
  • Millencolin's debut, initially released only in Scandinavia, was titled Tiny Tunes, and even had cover art parodying the logo of Tiny Toon Adventures. When it saw release in the U.S., it had different cover art and became Same Old Tunes, a title that both steered clear of Warner Brothers' trademark and reflected the fact that fans who already had an import of the album wouldn't be hearing anything new from this one. For similar reasons, the song "Disney Time" from the same album was retitled "Diznee Time".
  • Metal / garage rock band Speedealer started out as REO Speedealer, obviously parodying the name of REO Speedwagon. After getting a cease and desist notice, they had to drop the "REO".
  • Ironically, REO Speedwagon themselves were able to avert this trope by naming themselves after an old car from a defunct company.
  • Likewise Jefferson Airhead, who ran into trouble with Jefferson Starship and became simply Airhead.
  • Brit band Verve became The Verve after a run-in with the jazz label Verve.
  • The "Weird Al" Yankovic song "I'll Sue Ya" mentions the name of the companies listed, but in the video, the lyrics are changed so that they read different but are pronounced the same. The liner notes to the album contain the correct spelling.
  • dada's 1993 hit "Dizz Knee Land".
  • Likewise, 80s rock band "D.A.D." was originally called Disneyland After Dark, but they shortened it to an acronym after complaints from Disney.
  • Hip-hop group the X-Ecutioners were originally known as the X-Men. Take a wild guess why they had to change it. Their original name is still occasionally referenced in song lyrics, most notably in Linkin Park collaboration "It's Goin' Down."
  • Electronica group Death In Vegas were originally billed as Dead Elvis, but it turned out there was already a record label called that note Dead Elvis became the title of their first album instead.
  • Death From Above 1979 were originally Death From Above, and released two EPs under that name. The "1979" was added to their name due to a legal dispute with the record label DFA. note  DFA's copyright lawyer initially rejected the new name Death From Above 1979 until label owner James Murphy told them he didn't have a problem with it and didn't want the dispute to hold up the release of their album. DFA1979 were able to change their name to simply Death from Above again in 2017, but added 1979 back to their name in 2021.
  • Uncle Kracker originally planned to use Cracker as his stage name, until the band of that name objected. Cracker (the band) would later include a Take That! in their song "What You're Missing" - "That's 'Cracker' with a 'C', not 'K', or 'Uncle', understand?".
  • Though they say it plenty of times in the song, They Might Be Giants' "NyQuil Driver" is officially known as "AKA Driver" and is the only song on its album (John Henry) without printed lyrics.
  • Hot Water Music briefly had to change their name to The Hot Water Music Band for their album Forever And Counting, because a major label act called Hot Water released their debut album titled Hot Water Music that same year. The Forever And Counting cover art pointedly put much more emphasis on the "Hot Water Music" part of the name than those two added words, most likely because the name change would confuse fans otherwise. Hot Water broke up later that same year, so Hot Water Music was free to use their original name again.
  • The Three O'Clock originally formed under the name The Salvation Army, and released a self-titled album before legal issues with the actual Salvation Army forced them to change their name — they got their new name from the time they usually scheduled their rehearsals. They would later reissue the Salvation Army album under the name Befour Three O'Clock.
  • There was a Swiss feminist punk band called Kleenex, who quickly had to change their name to LiLiPUT for obvious reasons.
  • The Iron Maiden song To Tame A Land (from the Piece of Mind Album) was based on Frank Herbert's Dune. The band has told the story of how Frank Herbert (or his agent) gave them a less than warm response when they said they wanted to name one of their tracks after his book as well as including an excerpt. The answer was: "Frank Herbert doesn't like rock groups. Especially not hard rock, and especially not groups like Iron Maiden". The song still includes some thinly disguised references to Mau'dib and Arrakis.
  • There are two different performers named "Sean Paul". One is a hip-hop artist who is a member of a hip-hop group called "The Youngbloodz", while the other is a reggae / dancehall singer. The former called himself "Sean Paul of the Youngbloodz" for a while, but is now known today as "Sean P".
  • King Crimson did a rendition of "Mars: The Bringer of War" from Gustav Holst's The Planets suite in their early live act. The composer's estate objected to a rock band performing an adaptation of his musicnote , so for the In the Wake of Poseidon album, the piece was slightly altered and renamed "The Devil's Triangle."
  • pre)Thing initially wanted to call themselves rustandthesuperheroes - It turned out Hanna-Barbera owned the copyright to the word "superhero" at the time, so they had to pick a new name. The cover of 22nd Century Lifestyle still had the text "rustandthesuperheroes" in small print under the album title though.
  • At the height of their popularity on the UK series Byker Grove, Ant and Dec released a best-selling single or two as their characters, PJ and Duncan. After leaving the series they were forced to abandon the name under which they had sold so many records and record under their own names, as they no longer had the rights. Nonetheless they were able to bring their popularity with them as performers and then as presenters.

  • Williams Electronics' Taxi was originally going to have Marilyn Monroe as one of the passengers. Just before production, however, management got worried about a lawsuit from the Monroe estate, so "Marilyn" was renamed "Lola" and had her hair changed from blonde to brunette. Advertisements still referred to her as "Marilyn," however, and it is believed that a few Taxi machines with the "Marilyn" art are in circulation.
  • Sega's Sapporo was released to commemorate the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan. Since Sega did not get a license from the Olympic Games, it uses a generic skiing theme instead. The only nod to the Games is on the backglass, where a woman is prominently featured holding a flaming torch.
  • Similarly, Mylstar's The Games tried to tie into the 1984 Summer Olympics without a license. Players were urged to get gold medals in the Javelin, Shot Put, Discus Throw, Hammer Throw, and Pole Vault, while the backglass showed athletes competing in front of various world flags.
  • Several of Data East's games, like Lethal Weapon 3 and Star Wars, used the phrase "Tri-Ball" to avoid infringing on Williams Electronics' trademark for "multiball." Last Action Hero, which came out a year later, used "M-Ball" for its multiball modes, which supported up to six balls.
  • The celebrated High Speed duology uses artwork that clearly features the flagship supercar Lamborghini was producing at the time of the games' release (the Countach in the original, the Diablo in The Getaway: High Speed II), but since the car is never actually named in-game, Williams got away with it.
  • Due to the fierce competition pinball companies had in the 90s, each major manufacturer sometimes responded to trademarks with their own trademarks. Those familiar round bumpers that propel the ball away from themselves are one such case: Williams Electronics claimed "jet bumpers" and "thumper bumpers." In response, Gottlieb trademarked "pop bumpers," with "active bumpers" being the (rarely used) generic term. Jersey Jack Pinball deals with the existing trademarks (some of them have lapsed from disuse, but others are still active, most notably "pop bumpers," which Stern now owns) by having context-specific names. For instance, these bumpers in The Wizard of Oz represent the haunted forest, so the bumpers are referred to as "trees" or "tree bumpers" and the area as the "forest."

  • The Adventure Zone: Balance voluntarily did this with its graphic novel adaptation. The podcast originally started with the cast playing a pre-written Dungeons & Dragons campaign but diverged very quickly. Still, there were a few location names from the pre-written campaign that were either changed or eliminated with the graphic novel; Klarg, for example, became G'nash. The Mc Elroy Brothers decided Balance had become so much its own thing that it would be better to remove the D&D names and terms in adaptation, despite having full permission to use them.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • WWE used to be the WWF, but it changed its name after a suit by the World Wildlife Fund (they used to have an agreement, but it went sour); all previous mentions of "WWF" were bleeped out from old clips. Also, the "scratch" version of the WWF logo was blurred out of clips, since it was specifically named in the lawsuit, but the original logo was allowed to remain. Old mentions of the "World Wrestling Federation" were allowed to stand as well; it's only when it's referred to as the "WWF" that it was bleeped.note  This is no longer the case; since 2012, the WWE can now show clips from the Attitude Era uncensored and unedited.
  • In the late 1990s, Vince Russo had the brilliant idea to introduce a wrestling vampire named Gangrel. It was a great idea...that White Wolf already had when making the Gangrel vampire clan in Vampire: The Masquerade. Allegedly a writer was given a White Wolf book as reference material and didn't realize that half the clan names were invented by the publisher. The WWE (then the WWF) was able to get a deal that kept his name for the small token of putting White Wolf's name at the beginning of every broadcast (and video game) he appeared in. When Gangrel showed up years later on Raw in a one-off appearance, White Wolf sued WWE for trying to infringe upon their trademark; they lost due to the fact that they couldn't prove that the usage of the name for that one-shot appearance was enough to be infringing. In the WWE Encyclopedia, his entry is "David Heath (Known in WWE as Gangrel)".
  • Also in the encyclopedia, one time flagship TV show "Superstars of Wrestling" goes unmentioned in the TV timeline, presumably due to the issues surrounding THAT trademark. Why they didn't use the alternate name "Superstars" is unknown. This same dispute means that "Superstars of Wrestling" banners are blurred and episodes of the show itself tend not to be shown until the "of wrestling" was dropped.
  • The trademark for "Hulk Hogan" is jointly owned by Marvel Comics, creators of The Incredible Hulk because when Hogan began working for the WWF, Vince McMahon (then most visible as an announcer) got carried away and began referring to him as "The incredible Hulk Hogan". Needless to say, Marvel gave Vince a call...
    • Which is why, when WCW hired Hogan in the mid-'90s, they used the New World Order angle to change his full ring name to "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan; the announcers routinely just dropped the "Hulk" part of his name and called him "Hollywood Hogan", which meant Marvel didn't see as many royalties.
    • A similar incident occurred with WCW, who introduced a character called "Arachniman", who dressed in a yellow-and-purple colored costumenote . Needless to say, Marvel was not amused.
  • Since the advent of TNA and the various independent promotions in the United States, the names of wrestlers who jump ship from one promotion to another can often change because of trademark claims. One of the most famous subversions of this is Jay Reso: while employed by WWE, he was known as Christian. When he left the company, thanks to owning the trademark to his pre-WWE name — Christian Cage — he was able to use that name elsewhere. (When he returned to WWE, he dropped the "Cage" and went back to just "Christian".) Other examples:
    • When The Dudley Boys went to TNA, they were forced to give up the Dudley name because WWE owned practically every ECW-related trademark and copyright; they became Team 3D (named after their finisher, which was originally called the Dudley Death Drop). Bubba Ray and Devon became Brother Ray and Brother Devon, and (during his brief stint in the company) Little Spike Dudley became Brother Runt.
    • TNA does this with some incoming wrestlers in order to be able to exclusively own the trademark to a ring name (in some cases, this also allows a wrestler to keep their independent circuit ring name). Amusingly enough, the best examples of this were all part of their women's division: Awesome Kong (Amazing Kong elsewhere), Velvet Sky and Angelina Love (Talia Madison and Angel Williams, respectively), Madison Rayne (Lexi Lane or Ashley Lane), and Roxxi Laveaux (Nikki Roxx).
    • Like the aforementioned Dudley Boys, almost all of TNA's August 2010 Pay-Per-View Hardcore Justice is filled with Writing Around Trademarks. To name a few examples, the ECW alumni are always referred to as EV 2.0, the promotion they became famous in is referred to only as "the Philadelphia promotion", wrestler Justin Credible is referred to only as P.J Polaco (his real name), and two members of the FBI (which they interestingly were able to use) were called "Tony Luke" (Tony Mamaluke) and Guido Maritato (Little Guido in ECW).
  • A quickly resolved trademark dispute (apparently initiated by former promoter Jim Crockett) led to WWE briefly changing the spelling of Ric Flair to "Rick Flair."
  • An interesting reverse is the case of one of WCW main faces Sting. Steve Borden had actually purchased the trademark before the more widely known singer had. This means that every performance the singer gives he has to pay a royalty to Borden for use of the name (Steve isn't a dick about it, and it's apparently a token amount like $1 and occasional concert tickets).
  • Kurt Angle's finisher was originally called the Olympic Slam. Eventually, it became known as the Angle Slam.
  • Billy Jack was required to change his name to Billy Haynes, and eventually Billy Jack Haynes, after Tom Laughlin threatened legal action for using the same name as Laughlin's movie character. The in universe explanation was that Billy wanted to honor his father's name once he won the NWA Pacific Northwest Heavyweight Title.
  • When Cody Rhodes left WWE, he was unable to use his full "Cody Rhodes" name for several years because it was still owned by WWE. The workaround was to go by just "Cody" in the meantime, but he also occasionally had some fun with it, such as by bringing his wife with him to ringside so they would be introduced as "Cody and Brandi Rhodes".

  • Disc jockey and host John S. Gemperle first became known throughout Philippine airwaves as "Papa Jack" on 90.7 Love Radio where he hosted a couple of late-night radio programmes about relationships and romance. Trademark issues with Love Radio station owner Manila Broadcasting Company—who owns the rights to the "Papa Jack" moniker—forced Gemperle to adopt the thinly-disguised "Papa Jackson" when he moved to 106.7 Energy FM.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • A Tolkien-related lawsuit is the reason why the game has Balors instead of Balrogs and treants instead of Ents. Hobbits were renamed to halflings, which is apparently OK even though The Lord of the Rings uses it as a synonym for hobbits (the word "halfling" existed before Tolkien's works, however). At least in earlier editions, the D&D Halflings still bear a much-too-close resemblance to Tolkien's Hobbits, particularly with their division into Hairfoots, Tallfellows and Stouts (with Tolkien's Hobbits being Harfoots, Fallohidesnote  and Stoors). In what is either an homage or a deliberate insult (or maybe just a Lampshade Hanging), the 4e Monster Manual illustration of a treant looks exactly like Treebeard as shown in Ralph Bakshi's version of the movies.
    • The Deities & Demigods book had to be revised when the owners of trademarked deities complained. The Cthulhu Mythos was believed to be in the public domain, so TSR assumed they could legally use it without any special permission. However, Arkham House, which held the copyright on most Cthulhu books had already licensed the Cthulhu property to the game company Chaosium. They were required to provide a credit to the game company Chaosium. Later they removed Cthulhu and several other gods so as to not contain such an overt reference to one of their competitors. For this reason, the first and second printings have generally been in greater demand by D&D fans and collectors.
    • Same scenario with Michael Moorcock's Melnibonéan mythos, except that TSR actually did get permission from Moorcock beforehand. Moorcock apparently had forgotten that Chaosium already held the license to those characters when he gave TSR the go-ahead to use them.
    • Phil Foglio did a What's New? with Phil and Dixie cartoon for TSR's Dragon magazine that included a trip to the legal department. The staff there was very choosy with words: "Have you seen my engagement 'circular metal band?'" "The phone is 'circular metal banding'!!" At which point Phil's avatar asks "Are you still having trouble with the Tolkien estate?"
  • Third-party Dungeons & Dragons products using the OGL (including Pathfinder and its own third-party products) are not allowed to use the actual name Dungeons & Dragons. Consequently, these products consistently refers to "The World's Oldest Roleplaying Game" when talking about their relation to D&D. Everyone knows what is being referred to, especially since Wizards of the Coast themselves have been known to refer to D&D with the phrase in advertising, but unlike Dungeons & Dragons it is not trademarked. Similarly, since the OGL only covers RPG products and not other media like novels or miniatures, monsters that were created for D&D and brought over to Pathfinder have to be referred to by alternate names (like sea devils for sahuagin or brain collectors for neh-thalggus); this is partially the reason why most such creatures were renamed for Pathfinder's Second Edition.
  • In an example on the other side of the coin, SPI produced a role playing game called DragonQuest in 1980; when they went bankrupt in 1992, TSR picked it up and ran it as an alternate line to Dungeons and Dragons. Because of this, the Japanese RPG series Dragon Quest had to be renamed Dragon Warrior in North America until Square Enix finally secured the name in 2005.
  • When Greg Stafford brought a new game system (no longer RuneQuest) to Glorantha (with the help of Robin Laws), he wanted to name it HeroQuest based on the mighty mythical quests people went on to gain power. Unfortunately, the HeroQuest board game was still under trademark, and so Hero Wars came out instead. (Eventually, the trademarked lapsed and now there is a HeroQuest RPG, although it is generic and not limited to Glorantha.)
  • In one Open Gaming License product, "mind flayers" and "illithids" were referred to in the supplement as brain-eating tentacle-faced things. The Fighting Fantasy gamebook series pulled a similar trick with its own versions of the mind flayers. To get around the TSR trademark, Ian Livingstone called his equivalents "Brain Slayers."
    • Strangely enough, in a case of cross-medium and franchise geek culture influence, it appears that the words are only trademarked when tied to the specific monster. The Mandalorian references "a mind flayer", but there it appears to be some sort of torture device or specialist. (Presumably, it's unrelated to the Quarren, who resemble illithids.)
  • Games Workshop has found itself Writing Into Trademarks, following a legal battle with miniatures company Chapterhouse Studios. Chapterhouse didn't write around the trademarks and sold miniatures and components explicitly for the Warhammer lines. While the courts found them liable to pay damages to Games Workshop, it also set the precedent that Games Workshop did not have the control they desired over their existing properties. This led to:
    • Warhammer being reinvented as Warhammer: Age of Sigmar. The original setting had a rich and unique take on stock fantasy tropes, but was still very derivative of real-world cultures and had strong Tolkien influences. This meant that third-party miniature companies could produce figures for knights or elves that would fit right in with the Warhammer World, often for significantly cheaper than Games Workshop's official products. So instead of High Elves, Orcs or Dwarfs, Age of Sigmar will feature more copyright-friendly Highborn Aelfs, Orruks and Duardin, and even basic undead units will be Deathrattlers and Deadwalkers rather than skeletons or zombies.
    • Warhammer 40,000 underwent a similar, though much less extensive, rebranding process — which, since most of their factions were already fairly specific, mostly amounted to changing the names of the few Imperial institutions that were still in plain English to Canis Latinicus. Thus the Space Marines became the Adeptus Astartes (which they already were, but it wasn't the common name of the faction until the change), the Imperial Guard became the Astra Militarum and their stormtroopers the Militarum Tempestus (presumably to avoid the wrath of people with even more lawyers), the Eldar became Aeldari and the Tau inexplicably gained an apostrophe in their name. Amusingly, even in-universe everyone refuses to use Astra Militarum unless they're doing official paperwork for practical reasons; it's basically "Imperial Guard plus some other things technically in the same chain of command". Individual soldiers are still called Guardsmen, for example.
  • When both Shadowrun and Earthdawn were published by FASA, Earthdawn was explicitly the Fourth World to Shadowrun's Sixth World, with the idea that the Horrors who had harrowed Thera would return to the Sixth World when the mana tides were at their peak, and that certain metaplot events of the latter (such as Dunkelzahn's death) were deliberate attempts to delay this. Due to Shadowrun eventually ending up at Catalyst Game Labs, though, ties to Thera and the Horrors had to be downplayed. However, recent editions have turned back to the idea of "Terrors" from the Fourth World returning, and even referenced the bridge they were building on the Metaplanes to cross over in earlier editions.
  • Ponyfinder is a commercial game without Hasbro's authorization, so Everglow isn't quite Equestria — but the rules are designed to make it easy for fans who so choose to use it to play My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, and several elements and characters are strongly based on canonical ones tweaked just enough not to infringe on copyright laws.

  • In the Screen-to-Stage Adaptation of Secondhand Lions, Princess Jasmine's name was changed to Samira to avoid copyright conflict with the princess of the same name from Disney's Aladdin, whose stage musical also premiered at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theater.
  • Similarly, in Alan Menken's A Christmas Carol: The Musical, Young Scrooge's fiancée Belle is renamed Emily (after her original actress, Emily Skinner) to avoid conflict with Disney's Beauty and the Beast, the stage version of which had premiered earlier the same year and which was also scored by Menken.
  • Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier refers to its Princess as Princess and Jafar as Ja'far (given that it's one big Disney parody). Similarly, the other Disney villains that appear go unnamed, although their costumes leave no doubt as to who they're supposed to be. It also doesn't refer to the other thing it's a parody of by name, calling it "a book about a misunderstood green girl."

  • In Transformers, sometimes older characters' names are used and trademarked by companies other than Hasbro, so new versions of the character must be renamed. Trailbreaker has become "Trailcutter" and "Trailblazer", Runabout is now "Over-Run", and for a long time Bluestreak was "Silverstreak" before Hasbro finally managed to get the "Bluestreak" trademark back. There's also Shockblast (Shockwave), Hardshell (Bombshell), Skyblast (Skyfire), Skrapnel/Sharpshot (Shrapnel), and Twinferno (Doublecross; sometimes you can't even get close!) Ever since they realized this was happening (there was a long stretch when older characters were effectively never revisited, so nobody thought to check), Hasbro has used an assortment of tricks to try to prevent it:
    • Newer Transformers' names are typically nonsense words that are easier to defend as trademarks, preventing other companies from using them — it's not likely anyone else is going to try to trademark "Heavytread" or "Deadlift."
    • Older Transformers with names that haven't been lost yet but easily could be are usually slightly renamed into things that are easier to trademark, through the use of prefixes (toy versions of Ratchet and Scrapper are technically named "Autobot Ratchet" and "Constructicon Scrapper") or Xtreme Kool Letterz (a new version of Scattershot was called "Scattorshot").
    • And once Hasbro grabs a name, any name, they make a point of using it as much as possible. Unicron Trilogy Megatron kept renaming himself to Galvatron and back so Hasbro could keep both names in active use. Similarly, new characters often have the same names as completely unrelated older characters just so Hasbro can have a claim to the name—Armada Perceptor had nothing whatsoever to do with Generation One Perceptor, but he helped hold on to the trademark until Hasbro decided years later to make a new Perceptor toy.
    • When Hasbro decided to make a toy for the previously Toyless Toyline Character Straxus from The Transformers (Marvel), the toy was called "Darkmount" after the character's fortress (despite having a name that was theoretically easy to trademark). The supposed reason was because an Austrian company, Stadlbauer, held "Strax" as an international registered trademark for toys since 1966 and had registered the trademark in the United States in 2009. Hasbro probably did not want to risk a lawsuit over the name being a sound-alike, hence the rename.
    • The movie introduces Hot Rod, who becomes Rodimus Prime. He ran into this problem for a while: we didn't heard the name "Hot Rod" since The '80s until the late 2010s, a non-Prime Rodimus was simply Rodimus rather than Hot Rod, even if he's explicitly the G1 incarnation. A comic featuring The Greatest Story Never Told taking place behind the scenes of the movie, before his change, had to work around it: he's not Rodimus Prime yet, but they can't call him Hot Rod, so the entire story manages to never call him by name. Hasbro has since regained the trademark to Hot Rod, with the character going by that name in The Last Knight and Cyberverse, as well as in his Studio Series 86 toy.
    • On rare occasion, the answer to "why is the new version of X named something else?" isn't this: X-Brawn isn't named Brawn purely because X-es are cool, according to Word Of God. Also, Armada had a fairly major character who in the US was named Wheeljack. Energon, a direct sequel to Armada, went on to unexpectedly introduce a character who looked essentially identical to G1 Wheeljack (and was called that name in the Japanese dub), but had no connection to the Armada character (who was called "Rampage" in Japan). There was no way to do Arc Welding: Armada Wheeljack was a former Autobot with a grudge for his having been left behind in a battle. Energon "Wheeljack"... wasn't. Hasbro collectively sighed and called the Wheeljack lookalike "Downshift." This also happened to another Energon character who was clearly patterned after Victory Star Saber. However, both Hasbro and Takara had already used that name for one of the MacGuffins in Armada, and so the character was renamed to "Wing Saber".
    • In all advertising and packaging, his name isn't "Jazz". It's "Autobot Jazz". "Jazz" cannot easily be trademarked because it is such a generic termnote .
    • Jetfire/Skyfire's earliest design itself has underwent an Orwellian Retcon because... It's the VF-1 bought from Bandainote .
    • In one particularly problematic instance, Hasbro discovered that it had lost the trademark to "Bumblebee" shortly before the first of the Michael Bay films hit the theater, necessitating some quick legal scrambling on their part. This was also the reason why the Unicron Trilogy did not have a Bumblebee but instead had a Hot Shot. Hot Shot in Armada was originally going to be called Bumblebee, but Hasbro was unable to secure the trademark.
    • Word Of God states that the pteranodon Dinobot Strafe from Age of Extinction isn't named Swoop like the G1 Dinobot because he's too different from Swoop to be considered the same character... But the G1 Swoop had toys named 'Strafe' and 'Ptero' at the time, this coupled with a Tiny Turbo Changer toy released in 2018 of what's distinctively the movie pteranodon character under the Swoop name suggests it was this trope in effect.
    • The franchise's very name is subject to this, as "Transformers" is too descriptive and generic a name to be easily trademarked. Hasbro gets away with this by insisting that it's a property name and not a description of what the characters do, hence why robots changing their form is almost never referred to as "transforming" but is instead called "converting" or "shifting."
  • This is also true of G.I. Joe toys; either due to a desire to strengthen a trademark claim, or due to having lost the trademark between the RAH line's original shutdown and later revival, several characters either had their codenames changed (As with Transformers, a Joe called "Shockwave" became "Shockblast"), or in a manner similar to "Autobot Jazz", are carded with names like "Sgt. Bazooka" or "Albert 'Alpine' Pine". Sometimes they do both: the latest figure of the character once known as Thunder was called "Sgt. Thunderblast". A few years later, a figure of "Dreadnok Thunder" came out (based on a character previously called Thrasher) — so apparently the name "Sgt. Thunder" didn't pass trademark. And they didn't want to use "Dreadnok Thrasher" for some reason.
    • Speaking of GI Joe, a funny incident occurred when the line introduced a stealth bomber pilot named 'Ghostrider'. It was fine to sell him under this name as a toy, but the licensed Marvel comic had to deal with the fact that they already had one. Writer Larry Hama got around it, and played it for laughs, by never having the cast actually say his name, usually getting only as far as "Ghost...something" or just completely forgetting it. But it works—he's a stealth pilot, so his job is to not be noticed, right?
  • When the Sylvanian Families toy line was relaunched in the United States and Canada, the distributor renamed the franchise Calico Critters because "Sylvania" happens to be the name of a manufacturer of electrical products.
  • Tamiya has an entire line of World War II light vehicles without the manufacturers' names - the German (Volkswagen) Type 82 Kubelwagen, the British (Austin) 10 HP Utility, the US Army (Ford) Staff Car - while others like the Jeep MB and Citroen Traction Avant carry full manufacturers' licensing.
  •'s 12-inch Ghostbusters figures' Proton Packs come equipped with "Shippard valves" (read: "Clippard valves"). The Real Ghostbusters toyline avoided this by licensing the ECTO-1 from Cadillac and the Highway Haunter (a yellow Beetle) from Volkswagen; the cars' boxes carried disclaimers.
  • Prior to 1965, "yo-yo" was trademarked by Duncan, and competing companies had to call their products by awkward euphemisms like "spinning string top." In 1965 the Royal Top Company successfully sued for the right to use the term on the grounds that it had become part of common English. It's apparently still trademarked in Canada, though.
  • As Wham-O still owns the trademark on the word "Frisbee", this has led to several entities having to dodge the term.
    • The makers of The Secret of NIMH had to change the main character's name from the original Frisby to Brisby.
    • The Simpsons episode "A Tale of Two Springfields" has Bart refer to a "Novelty Flying Disc".
    • The Adventure Time episode "Up A Tree" obtrusively refers to a "discus".
    • This was played with in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Sand Castles in the Sand", where SpongeBob and Patrick decide to play a game of Small Plastic Disk That You Throw (Small Plastic Disk That You Toss for short). In "Company Picnic", the Krusty Krab group is on a picnic when SpongeBob makes a game by covering a paper plate with mustard and Mr. Krabs says that they can toss it around like "one of those things that you toss around."
    • Pretty much any non-Wham-O entities who seek to sell or distribute their own version of a tossable pie-tin has to do this. Summer Fun Disc is what Burger King called the toy in its (equivalent of) "Happy Meals" in the 1990s.
    • The sport of ultimate is so-called instead of its original name "ultimate Frisbee" due to the Wham-O trademark still in effect. Other names for the sport include "ultimate disc" or "flatball".
  • One intermission video for the fourth YuruYuri concert has the cast playing a block-stacking "balance game". When Rumi Ookubo asks if it isn't simply a game of Jenga (with the brand name being replaced with "\Akkari~n/") Shiori Mikami responds that while it might seem like that, it's really something completely different.
  • From The Grossery Gang, Tasteless Tobasco Sauce's name is one letter off of real Tabasco Sauce, a trademarked product. He also shares a modified version of the diamond logo, only in different colors and the edges chopped off to make a hexagon.
  • Brazilian toy maker Tec Toy had the license for the Monica's Gang 1988 hit animated movie A Estrelinha Mágicanote , but Estrela had the trademark for toys with the word "star". They worked around it by removing the word from the box.
  • Third-party sellers specialising in handmade and/or aftermarket dresses for American Girl dolls had to avoid using any American Girl trademarks due to legal pressure from Mattel, and that's despite previous precedent ruling the use of copyrighted material for reference purposes legally permissible under fair use. Given how it isn't worth the trouble to take on a major corporation, most sellers simply had no choice but to yield, instead either using the generic term "18-inch doll"note  or even going so far as to censoring the dolls' faces to allay any legal fears.
  • This is often the case for toys based on Marvel Comics properties, such as Hasbro's Marvel Legends line. If a character has a name that is distinct and easy to trademark like "Spider-Man," "Captain America," "The Incredible Hulk," "Magneto," "Thanos," "Doctor Doom," "Deadpool," "Ms. Marvel," "Luke Cage" or "Shang-Chi," they are usually fine. However, characters with names taken from preexisting terms or real world things are harder to trademark, usually leading to their names being presented as something like "Marvel's Falcon," "Marvel's Beast," "Marvel's Valkyrie," "Marvel's Rogue," "Marvel's Domino," "Marvel's War Machine," "Marvel's Wasp," "Marvel's Jubilee," "Marvel's Black Cat" or "Marvel's Sunspot" on the packaging for legal reasons.
  • When Funko Pop! figures made as convention exclusives are released outside the US, for legal reasons the stickers on the boxes are altered to avoid using the convention names. For example, Wondercon exclusives are referred to as "Wondrous Con Exclusives", while the San Diego Comic-Con exclusives are "Summer Convention Exclusives".

    Video Games 
  • Banjo-Tooie: In the original Nintendo 64 version, Kazooie tells Loggo, a talking toilet, that he should call a plumber to get himself unclogged, and suggests Mario. In the Xbox LIVE Arcade port, because Rare no longer works under Nintendo, Mario is merely alluded to as "That Well-Known Italian one."
  • O.D. from Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a dead ringer for Alucard with slightly different colour scheme, voiced by the same actor in both English and Japanese versions, and fights exactly like the guy. It's a miracle they managed to get away with it.
  • Castlevania: Rondo of Blood and Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin feature a monster called Dogether that resembles a Beholder minus the eye stalks. It is named after Suzuki Dogezaemon from Bastard!! (1988) (see the Anime and Manga folder).
  • City of Heroes has a sidequest featuring an obvious pastiche of Doctor Strange and the DC Comics character Doctor Fate, originally named Dr. Stephen Strangefate. As this had already been used in the Amalgam Comics character, later versions changed his name to Doctor Fayte.
  • Some of the games included in Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics are based on popular trademarked games, but have been slightly tweaked to get around copyrights. For example, Last Card is a variation of Uno, and Connect Four is referred to as "four in a row".
  • This might be the case with the Fox in Code Name: S.T.E.A.M, as she amounts to a gender-flipped Zorro, a character who has some difficulties surrounding his copyright status.
  • The Compilation Rerelease Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King doesn't refer to the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, or Game Boy by name, instead using the terms "Console S" (as in "Sega"), "Console N" (as in "Nintendo"), and "Handheld" due to the consoles' names being trademarks of their manufacturers.
  • The Dragon Quest games up to VII were titled Dragon Warrior in the US, due to a tabletop RPG using the former name.
  • Duke Nukem was briefly renamed Duke Nukum after someone discovered the Duke Nukem character in Captain Planet and the Planeteers. The name ultimately had never been trademarked, so the original name was quickly restored.
  • Epic Battle Fantasy series: Brawl Royale and Epic Battle Fantasy 1 both directly used characters and music from other media. The Epic Battle Fantasy Collection versions of both games would replace the characters with Expies and use original soundtracks by Phyrnna and Forger343, for Brawl Royale and EBF1, respectively.
  • Fate/Grand Order:
    • Edison's Noble Phantasm is literally the 20th Century Fox logo, except that it says "EDISON 19th CENTURY" instead and the signature music intro gets cut off after the first three notes.
    • Despite the entire Foreigner class being heavily associated with the works of H. P. Lovecraft, the game goes out of its way to never fully mention any major name from the Cthulhu Mythos. Hokusai might be linked to a "God of the Abyss" who lives at the bottom of the sea, has a major tentacle motif, and is prayed to with ia ias and fhtagns, but the word "Cthulhu" itself is never uttered. BB comes closest, doing things like openly renaming her boss form "BBthotep", but even she doesn't manage to say the full name.
    • Even the writers and staff behind the game have admitted that revealing the True Names of Learning with Manga! FGO's Rider and Assassin out loud would cause... problems. As such, the comic makes no secret of what they are (zany, genderbent gag characters based on Georges Méliès and John Edgar Hoover) but stops short of actually saying it. And when the time came for them to show up in the game itself, they opted to become Assist Characters for their Berserker friend (also a zany, genderbent gag character, but of the completely fictional and copyright-free Paul Bunyan) so they could appear without having to introduce themselves in full.
  • CyberConnect2 was practically forced to do this for their self-published Fuga: Melodies of Steel, given its nature as a Prequel. While they were able to use terms and locations from Solatorobo, they could not refer to Baion, Red, or any other pre-established Little Tail Bronx characters by name thanks to them being owned by Bandai Namco Entertainment. It shows in the final episode for the "Comedies of Steel" spin-off series, as Baion is referred as "The Hooded Man" the entire time, with only his eyes remaining obscured.
  • XBLA title Trenched was changed to Iron Brigade after a lawsuit was threatened by a European company which owns a WWI-themed board game of the same name.
  • The western release of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle had to change many character names to stay out of trouble with trademark laws, although many of the changes still count as musical Shout Outs (for instance, "Sticky Fingers" to "Zipper Man", a reference to the Stand's zipper-based abilities and the cover of the album featuring the song "Sticky Fingers" showing a man's zipper prominently) while others are more straight-forward references to the Stand's appearance and powers ("Aerosmith" to "Lil' Bomber). These names would also be later added into the dub of the anime.
  • The Last V8 for the Commodore 64 is clearly based on Mad Max, which had a Licensed Game on the NES.
  • Because of the scene in the original Gremlins including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Gremlins world in LEGO Dimensions replaces it with Stud Silver and the Seven Microfigures.
  • Similar to The Hobbit example in film section, The Lord of the Rings Online uses flashbacks to show Sauron is his beautiful form, which he used to beguile the Elves into crafting Rings of Power. He used the name "Annatar", but the works that mention it are not covered by the game's license, so a close Sindarin form of "Antheron" is used instead.
  • A famous example (though in terms of copyright rather than trademark) is the Jungle Hunt controversy. When Taito originally released the game (as Jungle King), it was an obvious take on the Tarzan stories and included the famous "Tarzan call" (which was a pretty impressive feat for the early 1980s). Unsurprisingly, Taito got taken to court by the estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs, so they had to hack in some changes to please the courts. Tarzan and the yell were out, a British guy in stereotypical pith helmet and gear is in, and the result is Jungle Hunt.
  • For a while, Marvel Comics licensed games were affected by an executive order that prevented the use, or even any mention, of characters whose film rights belonged to 20th Century Fox (namely the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises) from being used in cartoons or video games.
  • Sega renamed their Mega Drive console the Genesis in North America because another company, a manufacturer of hard disk drives, had already trademarked the name "Mega Drive." Later, the European logo for the Sega Dreamcast was changed to blue from orange due to the German game company Tivola already using an orange swirl as their logo.
  • Mega Man:
  • In Operation Darkness, Herbert West, the mad scientist with the ability to revive the other characters, had his surname altered to East for the English localization. The original story Herbert West–Reanimator is in the public domain, but given a legal incident with Dungeons & Dragons using Lovecraft's public-domain characters mentioned above, they probably wanted to be safe.
  • Overwatch has a recurring summer event beginning in 2016 that is obviously based on the Olympic Games, but avoids actual references to the Olympics, using the phrase "Summer Games" and a logo that resembles fireworks.
  • In Paper Mario: The Origami King, Mario's companion Olivia says "Shake it like a piece of outdated photographic paper". This is a reference to the OutKast song "Hey Ya!", but with the word "Polaroid" swapped out with something more generic (while simultaneously incorporating a joke about how Technology Marches On, given that Polaroids haven't been in wide use since the early 2000s thanks to the advent of digital cameras).
  • Petal Crash character Strelitz's species was originally listed as "Tiefling", until the devs found out that the term was actually owned by Wizards of the Coast and their use of it was not covered under WotC's Open Game License, and had to be changed in a later update.
  • The Game of the Year edition of Plants vs. Zombies had to make a few changes. The Dancing Zombie was changed from an homage to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" to a generic disco dancer with an afro, and the original Almanac entry for the Zomboni was replaced with a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer / Enforced Plug:
    Not to be mistaken for a Zamboni® brand ice resurfacing machine. Zamboni® and the image of the ice resurfacing machine are registered trademarks of Frank J. Zamboni & Co., Inc., and "Zomboni" is used with permission. For all your non-zombie-related ice resurfacing needs, visit!
  • This is the reason why the Japanese phenomenon Pocket Monsters was renamed Pokémon in the West, as there was a toy line (with an accompanying TV series and an NES game) titled Monster in My Pocket. Thankfully, it was already a Portmanteau Series Nickname in Japan, with pretty much everyone over there already calling it that anyway; many variants of the Japanese logo would go on to include the nickname written underneath.
  • Up until the mid-2010s, racing games had to resort to workarounds to avoid mentioning Porsche, due to an exclusivity agreement between Electronic Arts and Porsche initially signed for Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed that forbade for 20 years anyone except EA from using the Porsche trademark.
    • Gran Turismo for a while didn't have Porsche; instead, they had RUF, which is a manufacturer that uses Porsche bodies with their own machinery. The CTR, for example, is an 80s Porsche 911. The Porsche brand would make its debut in Sport due to the exclusivity deal expiring.
    • Wangan Midnight did this too in the fourth installment onwards after some Retconning in the first three games by changing the car used to represent Tatsuya Shima's Porsche 911 Turbo from the Gemballa 3.8RS (which was Nissan 350Z in the overseas version of the first three games) into the aforementioned RUF CTR Yellowbird (although still painted black, hence the nickname). However, Maximum Tune 6 finally uses the Porsche brand, due to the expiring exclusivity deal.
  • In the Punch-Out!! Wii game, Japanese boxer Piston Honda has had his name changed to Piston Hondo. One of his dialogues was also rewritten for the Virtual Console release of the NES game. (However, as "Honda" is a real Japanese name, any attempts by the car company to sue over the use of that name would likely fail.)
  • The Market-Based Title Resident Evil came due to trademark issues surrounding the name Biohazard note , which led to Capcom staff holding an internal contest to rename the first game in the franchise prior to its US and European release.
  • The first installment of Sierra's Quest for Glory series was actually released as Hero's Quest, but was swiftly changed because of TSR's HeroQuest boardgame.
    • After the release of Quest for Glory III: Wages of War, Sierra's legal team found out that another videogame company had already trademarked the title "Wages of War." So Sierra made plans to reissue the game as Seekers of the Lost City (a nod to Raiders of the Lost Ark). Before the re-release was completed, though, the company that had trademarked Wages of War closed its doors. While QFG3 was never released with the new name, the QFG4 in-game documentation uses the revised QFG3 title in its descriptions of the prior installments (though the CD version refers to it properly).
    • Likewise, various Space Quest games featured stores like Droids-R-Us and Radio Shock, which were renamed in subsequent versions of the game after legal threats (to Droids-B-Us and Hz So Good, respectively).
    • The name Space Quest is also an example of this trope: After releasing the game Sierra found out the name was owned by the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. An agreement was made to pay a small fee to the museum, and from Space Quest IV on "Space Quest" gets a small space on the box while main character Roger Wilco is emphasized.
  • Scribblenauts has the same "Frisbee" problem as mentioned above. The item doesn't really have any other name in the public consciousness than that, but it goes with "Flying Disc." The same goes with other properties: "Lightsaber" won't work, but "Laser sword" does.
  • Silent Hill: Shattered Memories features a high school which is putting on a school production of… "Connie''. Unintentionally, that also evokes the (flopped) stage production of a certain, much more tone-appropriate novel.
  • Sonic and the Secret Rings was going to be called Sonic Wildfire but "Wildfire" had already been trademarked.
  • When StarTropics II was rereleased on the Wii Virtual Console, the Tetrads were renamed "Blocks," since Nintendo no longer had the rights to Tetris.
    • The yo-yo in the first game was renamed to "Island Star" for the Virtual Console release, due to the former name being trademarked in Canada (it has been a generic name in the United States since 1965).
  • Ryu's friendly rival in Street Fighter was simply known as Ken until it came time to make action figures based on the characters. Since the name "Ken" was trademarked by Mattel for Barbie's famous boyfriend, he was given the last name "Masters" and the name was subsequently used in the games as well.
  • This is the reason why Super Robot Wars: Original Generation was localized as Super Robot Taisen in the West; they were worried about conflicts with Robot Wars at the time.
    • The Black History from ∀ Gundam is a major plot point throughout the Super Robot Wars Z series. However, wasn't included in Jigoku-hen, so the Banpresto writing staff got around this by adding a single hiragana to the name, changing it from "Kuro Rekishi" (黒歴史) to "Kuroi Rekishi" (黒い歴史), which has exactly the same meaning.
  • The Super Smash Bros. franchise had some trademarks to work around, it being a Massive Multiplayer Crossover:
    • The Motion-Sensor Bomb and Cloaking Device items in the Super Smash Bros. series originally hailed from GoldenEye and Perfect Dark respectively. In Super Smash Bros. Melee, the trophies for these items list their first appearance as "TOP SECRET", the Cloaking Device due to Rare being bought by Microsoft and the Motion-Sensor Bomb for the same reason as well as being from a licensed game.
    • Cloud and Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII were added to 3DS/Wii U and Ultimate, respectively, though they came with very limited music tracks than others likely due to the Square Enix license.
    • Sora from Kingdom Hearts was added to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as the final DLC character and is the biggest example of this trope in the series. While Sora and the Kingdom Hearts series are made by Square Enix, they are also the property of Disney, who is infamously protective of their IP and brand image. The long and arduous process of negotiating the usage of Sora is the reason why, despite being the most requested character for 3DS/Wii U in an official fan ballot, the team was unable to include him at the time. While Disney would ultimately sign off on Sora being a Smash fighter, all references to other Disney properties, save for the lone Mickey Mouse keychain on his keyblade, were excluded.
    • Thanks to new ESRB rules prohibiting M-rated and non-M-rated games from being promoted alongside one another, promotional materials for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate cannot directly name any M-rated games. This meant that the introductions of Mii costumes like Altair and Doom Slayer didn't show the usual Super Smash Bros. Ultimate X {franchise} graphic but instead used the characters' names stylized to look like the series' logos. Thus, Ultimate subverts the Demographic-Dissonant Crossover trope in this instance, though the game also plays that crossover trope straight with playable characters from M-rated games. Since the ESRB applies only to North America, versions of the trailers in other parts of the world are unaffected by this.
  • This was the reason Tales of Eternia was released as Tales of Destiny II in the US. It made things confusing when an actual Tales of Destiny 2 came out for the PS2: Mattel already had "Eternia" trademarked.
  • This is the origin of Lara Croft. The original concept design for the protagonist of Tomb Raider was a tall man in khakis with a brimmed hat and a satchel. Upon seeing it, one member of the creative team announced "Where's his whip? We're gonna get sued!" So they replaced that character with the now-legendary Lara.
  • Lampshaded to hell and back in the Interactive Fiction game Toonesia. Bud Bunny, Elmer Fuld, Dizzy Duck. Oh, and the Tasmanian Devil. Which is OK because it's a real animal.
  • Parodied in Totally Accurate Battlegrounds, where what is obviously a frying pan is called a "shallow pot with long handle"; a dig at PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds for trying to use frying pans as an Improvised Weapon as part of their claim in a lawsuit against other Battle Royale games.
  • For the mobile phones version of Wai Wai World, The Goonies universe was changed to one based in Bio Miracle Upa (who later appeared in the sequel), and Pentaro was ascended to playable (originally KingKong) while his pink lover covers his previous role.
  • Wally Bear and the NO! Gang was originally supposed to be called the "Just Say No" Gang, but former first lady Nancy Reagan already trademarked the phrase.
  • Since Nintendo trademarked the word Wii, any game on the system trying for that name but made by a different company would have to do something similar, like We Cheer or We Ski.
  • The Wonderful 101:
    • One unlockable character is called "Poseman", a hot-blooded hero with a red outfit. This is likely a reference to Viewtiful Joe (the first installment of Kamiya's Hero Trilogy), which is owned by Capcom and thus couldn't be used. However, there is an Easter Egg that has Wonder-Pink call Sylvia from the game and ask about Joe.
    • The game's fifth boss is a homage to Punch-Out!!. Platinum asked Nintendo, the original publisher of The Wonderful 101 and the owners of Punch-Out, if they could use that game's theme for the battle, but were turned down. So they used a Suspiciously Similar Song instead.
  • The first major Yo-Kai Watch spin-off Yo-kai Watch Busters had to be changed in multiple ways when localized for the West, all to remove references to Ghostbusters. The name was changed to Yo-kai Watch Blasters, their car was altered to less resemble the Ecto-1, the Blaster-variant mascots (Jibanyan B, Komasan B, Usapyon B) had their costumes changed from jumpsuits to vests, and the final boss was changed from a parody of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man to a standard Kaiju (the name was changed from Whismellowman to Whisped Cream). Interestingly this seems to only apply to Ghostbusters references as references to other movies and shows remained intact.
  • Some time after the original release of the Fan Game Your Bizarre Adventure, copyright concerns led to every character and Stand from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure being renamed. Several of them are extremely similar to the original (for instance, Star Platinum and The World become "Platinum Sun" and "The Universe"), while others are deliberately ridiculous (for example, Pesci becomes "Pepsi", Pannacotta Fugo becomes "Pancake Fog", and the Joestar family becomes the "Joemama" family).

    Visual Novels 
  • Part of the reason why The Great Ace Attorney wasn't released outside of Japan during its initial 2015 release until its 2021 Compilation Rerelease was due to the presence of Sherlock Holmes as a major secondary protagonist, as while the series is perfectly within the Public Domain in Japan, it's a lot rockier elsewhere. Eventually, the Arsène Lupin route was taken and Holmes was renamed into Herlock Sholmes, along with John and Iris Watson into the Wilsons. Nothing else from the Holmes canon was changed, however; for instance, he still lives at 221B Baker Street and the characters directly named after those in the books such as Enoch Drebber still retain their names in full. Additionally, the Strand Magazine is referred to as the Randst Magazine in both versions due to the actual Strand Magazine still being published past a 1998 revival.

    Web Animation 
  • Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse has "Generic Flying Discs" instead of Frisbees, since Mattel owns Barbie, and Wham-O owns a trademark on the name, "Frisbee". A few minor examples have Ken refer to Ikea as, "a Swedish furniture store", Skipper call Turner Classic Movies, "that channel nobody watches", and Chelsea refer to Starbucks as, "some coffee shop".
  • Played for Laughs in an episode of The Champions. During the intro, new Juventus player Matthijs de Light appears and starts saying, "Ever since I was a young boy, I dreamed of playing for Juv—" before a voiceover cuts in and completes the sentence with "Piemonte Calcio".
  • DSBT InsaniT: Parodied with this line.
    Andy: So you're a vending machine that plays music? I'm parched, but I don't want to buy any brand names due to advertising concerns. Do you have generic-?
    Soda Register: I'm not a vending machine either. I only play music.

  • Clinic of Horrors: a game that Dr. Albright and Bianca frequently play is titled "Last Fantasy Online."
  • Schlock Mercenary's oft-quoted "Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates" was changed to "Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries" after the author received a letter from the lawyers of Stephen Covey (the Real Life book is Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) about the trademark. Though a fair-use parody argument could be made, the author admitted he was glad for the excuse to make the retcon because the original choice of title was admittedly lazy, the "seven habits" part was a Non-Indicative Title since they number upwards of 30, and the new title opens more possibilities for The Merch.
  • Jokingly used in Help Desk. Ubersoft has trademarked the concept of the OK Button, but another company has trademarked the term OK Button. So Ubersoft rewrites its software so that all OK Buttons are now Right On Switches. This is why letting annoyingly cute mascot paperclips name things isn't a good idea.
  • EATATAU!!! pretty obviously takes place in the Warhammer 40,000 setting, but any name that's Games Workshop copyright gets extra letters added on (e.g. "Tau" becomes "Ttau" and "Kroot" becomes "Kroott"). Darius ignores this for terms like Eldar and Space Marine because they're Older than Games Workshop Claims.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Played for laughs in an early comic. Elan encounters a Mind Flayer, only for it to be dragged away by a pair of lawyers sent by the spoooooooky wizard who lives by the coast. The Beholder scheduled to be in the next comic is then sent away before the lawyers notice.
    • Later, the comic introduces Zz'dtri, a Dark Elf who, as the characters note, comes from a race composed entirely of edgy anti-heroes trying to throw off the race's reputation for evil. When Zz'dtri and his team turn out to be evil, Vaarsuvius defeats him by loudly noting his resemblance to "a certain popular fantasy author's intellectual property," causing the lawyers to show up and drag him away. He then returns 700 strips later, having successfully argued that parody counts as fair use.
    • For a spell-specific example, the spells "Bixby's Crushing Hand", "Bixby's Evicting Hand", "Bugsby's Cat-Retrieving Hand", "Bugsby's Expressive Single Digit" and "Bugsby's Flicking Finger" are all references to various DnD spells called "Bigby's [adjective] Hand" (which in 5e became a single spell, "Bigby's Hand", with multiple uses).
    • A Beholder makes a more prominent appearance much later in the comic ... but nobody can remember what it's called.
  • Sonichu acquired infamy for many, many reasons, but notably combining Pikachu and Sonic to create the titular, technically copyright-free character. While the copyright-free claims are dubious, the comic still features a lot of copyrighted Pokémon characters.

    Western Animation 
  • Supposedly, a threat from Blizzard Entertainment led the staff of Adventure Time to remove the Lich King's title and just call him The Lich.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: Played for Laughs in "The Friend". The "Mentos and Coke" trick is pulled twice, and in both times it is stated to use "non-branded" mints and cola.
  • Thorn was originally the name of Rose's alter ego on American Dragon: Jake Long. Turns out the dual identity "Rose and Thorn" already belonged to a DC superhero, and many episodes in the first season had to be re-recorded, changing the name "Thorn" to "Huntsgirl". Thorn is still used in plenty of Fora and Fan Fiction.
  • As mentioned in the "Comics" section, Martian Manhunter's snack cookie of choice was originally Oreos (later Choccos), but for his appearances in Batman: The Brave and the Bold it was changed to ordinary chocolate chip cookies.
  • The main plot of the Bonkers episode "I Oughta Be in Toons" was about Mickey Mouse being imprisoned and impersonated by a disgruntled former child actor, but because of red tape concerning Mickey's television rights at the timenote , he isn't actually shown on-screen (he is seen in silhouette in the beginning of the episode and spends the rest of the episode locked in a pet carrier) and he is never addressed by his name (instead referred to as "the mouse" or "the most famous toon in the world"). Strangely, this didn't prevent Mickey Mouse from being mentioned by name in other episodes.
  • Family Guy:
    • Lampshaded in the episode "Cool Hand Peter" which uses the names McDaniel's and Burger Queen, along with food names like "Flame-broiled Bopper", "Diet Conks", "Chicken McFingers" and "fresh fries". This annoys Quagmire who remarks that everyone knows what they are really talking about and also mentions how nobody owns the trademark for French fries. Since Stewie actually did get a job at McDonald's in an earlier episode, this was more making fun of this trope as opposed to the show actually writing around trademarks.
    • A similar joke is done at the end of "Halloween on Spooner Street", Stewie offers Brian some of his Halloween candy but reminds him that they can't use the real names due to "advertising concerns". Brian picks a few fake candy names like "Jim & Ms", "Not-a-Finger", "$64,000 Bar", and "Dawkins' Peanut Butter Disc". A frustrated Stewie mutters "God, I hate television." in response.
    • In the original airing of "Brian in Love" after Brian pees in the supermarket, Peter remarks "Geez, Brian, where do you think you are, K-Mart?". That didn't go over too well, so K-Mart was changed to Payless in all reruns and on the DVDs.
  • The Flintstones was originally called The Flagstones, but a similar last name was already being used by the comic strip Hi and Lois.
  • Futurama's The Wizard of Oz parody included the song "We resemble but are legally distinct from the Lollipop Guild". The Beetlejuice cartoon's own Oz spoof described the land that Lydia lands in as "The Land of Public Domain." The Beetles claim that they'd sing to Lydia, but that they weren't allowed, as one of them shows her the court order against doing so.
  • Hasbro's G.I. Joe franchise had a similar problem when they allowed trademarks on those characters to lapse. It's believed to be the reason why Roadblock was replaced with near-identical cousin Heavy Duty in the Rise of Cobra film. And within the action figure line, Rock and Roll was renamed Bench Press. However Hasbro did end up getting a few trademarks renewed since Roadblock was brought back as a prominent character on G.I. Joe: Renegades, G.I. Joe: Resolute, and the live action sequel Retaliation.
  • Parodied in Invader Zim. You remember how your elementary school fundraiser had those cheesy prizes for selling x products? Well, in Zim's one prize is apparently a box of adhesive medical strips. It's not only dubbed over in an instructional video; it's dubbed over in an actual conversation.
  • Johnny Bravo had Rudolph in one Christmas episode, but he wasn't referred to by name. Oddly, the Grinch is mentioned by name in the same scene that Rudolph appears in (though he doesn't appear).
  • Interestingly when Justice League writers created a character called Ichthultu, they only did this because they were unaware that Cthulhu was a Public Domain Character. Though it's not according to Arkham House Publishers Inc., which was one of the reasons The Real Ghostbusters episode homaging Lovecraft's works called the monster "Cathulhu".
  • An in-universe example in the KaBlam! episode, "Won't Stick to Most Dental Work". When Henry opens his own restaurant, he mentions in his letter to June that her lawyers wouldn't let him use the KaBlam! name, hence why he had to name his restaurant "Henry's House of KaBoom!".
  • The Animated Adaptation of the Maisie picture books by Aileen Patterson (about an anthropomorphic cat) was called Meeow! to avoid confusion with the Animated Adaptation of the Maisy picture books by Lucy Cousins (about an anthropomorphic mouse).
  • In Miraculous Ladybug, Chat Noir's name was changed to Cat Noir in the American dub because the original name didn't sit well with test audiencesnote , but also likely because the literal translation "Black Cat" was already the name of a Marvel character.
  • An odd case in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Hasbro had allowed the trademarks on many of the '80s characters to lapse — including nearly all of the ones Lauren Faust wanted to use. Thus, the Mane Six are re-imagined versions of classic ponies redesigned and renamed after G3 ones — Pinkie Pie especially is a lot closer to her original G1 version, Surprise, than her G3 namesake, as is Twilight Sparkle to Twilight, Rainbow Dash to Firefly, Rarity to Sparkler, and Fluttershy to Posey. Oddly, the one that did get to be modeled on the intended G1 pony, Applejack, is very nearly an In Name Only version.
    • We also have Big Macintosh. The abbreviated version of his name, "Big Mac", is owned by McDonald's (which eventually did several Happy Meal promotions for the show), so other characters can only say "Big Mac" sparingly, after they've already said the full "Big Macintosh" version in the same scene.
    • BBC got on the show's case with Doctor Whooves, whose name sounds too similar to and is an obvious collection of homages to Doctor Who, so later on the "W" was removed from his name, which was good enough, it seems. The credits for the episode "Slice of Life" credits him as simply "Doctor." Some of the merchandise, most notably the figurines from Funko, still calls him "Doctor Whooves" on the packaging, however.
    • Similarly, the estate of Coco Chanel gave Hasbro some noise about the similarly named Coco Pommel, dropping a Cease and Desist on them and prompting them to drop the first part and only refer to her as "Miss Pommel" from here on out. Perhaps the idea of Miss Pommel collaborating with the episode's villain hit a little too close to home.
  • The Patrick Star Show: In "The Yard Sale", a hula hoop is called a "loopy-hoop", because the name "hula hoop" is trademarked.
  • Parodied in Robbie the Reindeer. Robbie is the son of Rudolph, but every time someone is about to say Rudolph's name they get cut off.
  • An example occurs in the Robot Chicken sketch "We Are the Victors", depicting U.S. Libertarian Party conventions in various years. The speakers would pep up their crowd by predicting victory, but then due to not getting copyright permissions from various artists, would play a very similar substitute song—such as "We Are the Victors" (for Queen's "We Are the Champions"), "We Are a Close-Knit Group" (for Sister Sledge's "We Are Family"), "Friend Choo-Choo" (for The Ojays' "Love Train"), etc.
    Candidate #1: Don't worry, Sister Sledge, this is not your copyright-protected musical hit "We Are Family". It's something better!
  • A similar issue to My Little Pony's Big Mac happened with the Cut and Paste Dub of TUGS, Salty's Lighthouse. Big Mac's name was blacked-out and he was referred to as "Big Stack".
  • The Simpsons:
    • Lampshade Hanging: In "Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious", Sherri Bobbins categorically denies that she is anything like Mary Poppins; she's an original creation like Ricky Rouse or Monald Muck.
    • Considering also Treehouse of Horror tale The Shinning, this is a recurring (if not running) gag.
      Bart: You mean "shining"?
      Groundskeeper Willie: Shhh! Ya wanna get sued?!
    • In "The Otto Show"
      Bart: Otto-Man? You're living in a dumpster?
      Otto: Ho, man, I wish. Dumpster-brand trash bins are top-of-the-line. This is just a Trash-Co waste disposal unit.
    • Also the "Purple Submersible" in "Last Exit to Springfield", and Lisa in the Sky, but not with diamonds.
    • Heck, the episode "The Day the Violence Died" is all about the problems caused by oversensitive copyright and trademark infringement litigation, and features this trope.
    • It pretty much is a running gag, the gag being how ridiculous it is to force people to conform to this trope (and the extra miles the show goes to make it blatantly obvious).
  • In "You Kent Always Say What You Want", Homer orders various toppings on his ice cream, all takes on various names of real candies: Snickles, Gooey Bears, Charlottesville Chew, Nice 'N' Many, Kat Kit, Herschel's Smooches, Mrs. Bad Bar, and Milk Dudes.
  • In "Fat Man and Little Boy", Bart throws away some of his toys: Spirogram, Sketch 'n' Etch, Ravenous Ravenous Rhinos, Duopoly, Parchoosey, Humor Putty, and Sock 'em Knock 'em Cyborgs.
  • "Covercraft" briefly uses a game called Stack-O as a replacement for Jenga.
  • In "Double, Double, Boy in Trouble", Lenny gives out robotic vacuums as a party gift. They're not Roombas, but generically-named Vac-U-Bots.
  • Season 1's "There's No Disgrace Like Home" couldn't use the term "Jell-O Desserts", so Homer instead called them "gelatin desserts." However, the term "Jell-O" has been used many times since, starting with season 3's "Saturdays of Thunder".
  • Lampshaded in Skylanders Academy when it's revealed that Pop Fizz used to be a musician:
    Pop Fizz: Maybe I'll run into some of my old music pals, like the Bowling Scones, or Jimi Matrix, or... other band names that are protected under First Amendment parody rights.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants was originally going to be named SpongeBoy, but the show creators discovered that SpongeBoy was a trademarked mop brand. Thus, the Y became a B.
  • Steven Universe usually avoids naming any distinctive looking technology, including Steven's purple cube-shaped gaming system with small CDs which plays fictional games besides one with a cover of small animal people) we never get to see. When Steven moves out in the finale he leaves behind a box with "his game stuff", though this time its a system transparently resembling the Nintendo 64, including its infamous controllers.
  • The Superhero Squad Show wasn't allowed to use Spider-Man because of rights issues with Sony, but managed to make two vague references to him in the episode "Election of Evil". The Mayor of Superhero City at one point alludes to a hero who got his powers from being bitten by a radioactive bug and at the end of the episode states "With great responsibility comes great power....and, uh, vice versa."
  • An episode of Thomas & Friends's fifth series introduces a BR Class 17 diesel as a character. Originally he was to be named "Paxman", after the manufacturer of the Class 17's twin engines. The problem was that the character, like the real locomotive, suffered engine trouble, and the producers were worried about slandering the Paxman brand. In the episode he's No Name Given, while in the merchandise he's "Derek".
  • Top Cat was known as Boss Cat in the United Kingdom as there was already a cat food brand called Top Cat. Only the on-screen title was changed (with a very rough cut to a very cheap-looking new title card); the theme tune lyrics continued to use "Top Cat".
  • The Venture Bros.:
    • The show frequently included characters from Jonny Quest in its first season or so, killing off Race Bannon and depicting Jonny himself as having turned to drug addiction to deal with the trauma of his childhood. As Venture Bros. and Quest share a parent company, there was no legal problem here, but the names had to be changed later regardless. Warner Bros. was fine with the show parodying the Quest characters, but objected to Venture Bros. using them as major parts of ongoing stories, and so Jonny Quest became Action Johnny (no last name) and Dr. Zin became Dr. Zee.
    • A more straightforward version of this is why David Bowie was revealed to be an imposter and then written out: there's a legal difference between making fun of the man, and making him a straightforward and sincere part of your show without permission from Bowie and his estate.
  • What If...? (2021): Due to the terms of the co-licensing agreement between Disney and Sony that keeps Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel Studios can't depict any suits used in the live-action films. To get around this, Zombie Hunter Spider-Man is depicted as wearing his Avengers CAMPUS suit, which is a Suspiciously Similar Substitute to the suit used in the films.
  • The reason why Xiaolin Chronicles renamed the Shen-Gong Wu from the original series is because Warner Bros. Animation had no involvement with the second series, while Warner Bros. still owned the rights to the original names of the objects.
  • As mentioned above in the Comic Books section, DC eventually dropped the use of the name "Captain Marvel," instead officially renaming their version of the character Shazam!. This caused a bit of an awkward situation for Young Justice, as Cap had appeared in the first two seasons (produced before the name change was officially company policy) under his original name. During his sole appearance in the third season, he was only referred to by his civilian name, Billy, with the credits calling him Shazam instead of Captain Marvel. Consequently, when Mary Bromfeld made her debut in Season 4, she was cut off before she could officially say her codename was "Sergeant Marvel," and was officially renamed "Black Mary" in the season finale.

  • Nissan Motor Company has its website at because Nissan Computer already owned and used (as well at .net), having registered it before the former got around to it. Nissan Motors sued, but unlike PETA and People Eating Tasty Animals, failed to get the domain transferred (the fact that Nissan Computer is an actual business helps).
  • TCBY was originally called This Can't Be Yogurt, but due to a lawsuit from competitor I Can't Believe It's Yogurt!, they later changed their initials to The Country's Best Yogurt.
  • The Debian Linux distribution re-branded Firefox as Iceweasel, because Mozilla owns the trademark and the logo; even though the browser is open source, trademarks are generally not covered by such licenses (in fact, the Mozilla Public License explicitly states that trademark rights are not granted by it as with contributors' copyright and patents). The Debian team also re-branded Mozilla's other projects, Thunderbird and Seamonkey, as Icedove and Iceape for similar reasons. There are also other re-branded versions of Firefox floating around for use in open-source operating systems, such as GNU Icecat and the Trisquel's Abrowser (clever name on that last one, huh?)
    • Firefox was originally called "Phoenix", and then "Firebird", but changed the name because both of these were already in use for other software. Phoenix was already trademarked by a BIOS developer, and Firebird was used by a free and open source database program, and as Mozilla Firebird (as it was known at the time) was also free and open source software, so Mozilla changed the name to Firefox for version 0.8 to respect the database as the insistence on including "Mozilla" in the full name was not considered to be above. (When Phoenix was renamed to Firebird, the Minotaur mail/news reader was renamed Thunderbird to go with the new bird name of its browser companion. Unlike Firefox, it retains the mythological bird name to this date.)
    • Mozilla owns the trademarks for the official names for their products to protect their own image. The Firefox brand can only be used with an unmodified product. However, they are aware of the need for the FOSS community to be able to use their products unfettered, so they offer an easy way to compile versions of their products without trademark (which as seen above can then be renamed and relabeled at the desire of the distributor). The trademark-free version of Firefox keeps the Mozilla globe (which is free to distribute) and uses the particular version's code name, which is never trademarked.
  • Many businesses parodying the Pimp My Ride name were forced to do this after legal threats by Viacom, owner of the show and the "Pimp My" trademark. Pimp That Snack, for example, was once called Pimp My Snack.
  • Even with an ad that all but lampshaded that they were not the official airline for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and without even referring to the tournament by name, a South African discount airline still got threatened by FIFA for creating an "unauthorized association" with the tournament because of the ad's imagery. FIFA and other major sports organizations have, lately, required host countries for their major events to implement strict laws to ban so-called "ambush marketing" in order to protect the official sponsors. With what FIFA ended up telling them, they were basically asserting a special trademark on anything culturally related to South Africa, and even the word "South Africa", if used in connection to a reference to football. Of course, they had to lampshade it further with their new ad, discussing an event happening "not next year, not last year, but somewhere in between."
  • You may notice around the time of the Super Bowl that a lot of stores and restaurants will be advertising promotions for "The Big Game" or "Super Sunday"; the NFL aggressively enforces its trademark on the name of said game, limiting its use to official sponsors. In fact, they even tried to trademark the phrase "The Big Game", until they remembered that a particularly important college football rivalry game, between University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University, is actually called "the Big Game." (Or you can change some capital letters around, as Stephen Colbert did, and call it the "Superb Owl games."
  • In Britain, the T.J. Maxx department store chain is called T.K. Maxx to avoid confusion with TJ Hughes department stores.
  • This happens often with cars:
    • The Hyundai Elantra was once known as the Lantra throughout much of Europe and Australia thanks to the similarly named Lotus Elan, as well as the Elante trim level offered on some of Mitsubishi's cars. When both cars were discontinued by 2001, the name was allowed to be used.
    • The Lancia Montecarlo was called the Scorpion in the U.S. thanks to Chevrolet's Monte Carlo being sold there.
    • In the early Nineties, GMC released a performance oriented pickup called the Syclone. It's spelled with an "S" because Mercury still held the trademark for "Cyclone". (In fact, they had just made a concept car by that name.)
  • During the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Nike released an ad about athletes finding greatness in London. But Nike wasn't an official sponsor, so they couldn't make an ad about the games themselves. Their solution? An ad that features athletes in places around the world called London (along with shots of various signs that say London)- just not the ones where the games were being held.
    • Bookmaker Paddy Power pulled a similar stunt, with ads that proclaimed it was the sponsor of the "biggest sporting event in London this year" ... an egg-and-spoon race in a French village named London.
    • In a bigger, non-ad version, ESPN Brazil was not allowed to broadcast the 2013 Confederations Cup. Instead they showed five commenters watching the game, many times reaching MST levels.
  • Southwest Airlines and Stevens Aviation both began using a variation of "Just Plane Smart" as their slogan at around the same time. Instead of taking the matter to court, they decided to settle it with an armwrestling match between CEOs as a publicity stunt. The CEO of Stevens Aviation won, and promptly granted Southwest the right to use the phrase as well at no charge. The two companies got a lot of good press and raised about $15,000 for charity to boot.Source 
  • In August 2003, a Canadian Mike Rowe (no, not that one) thought it'd be amusing to register the domain name However, Microsoft took note and sued in January 2004. But after the publicity, Microsoft settled with Mike and admitted they were overreaching in protecting their trademark.
  • There's a costume company that makes a Wednesday Addams Halloween costume, but never bothered to get approval from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. To avoid a lawsuit, it's officially an "Evil Midweek Cutie" costume.note 
  • Engine manufacturer S&S Cycle had to come up with their own designations for the Harley-Davidson clone motors they manufacture, e.g. "T-Series" (no, not that T-Series) as a drop-in replacement for the Twin Cam, likely due to the fact that they, along with fellow aftermarket motorcycle parts manufacturer Delkron, were sued in 2005 by Harley for patent and trademark infringement.
  • Cosplay troupes who dress up as popular Disney Princess characters for birthday parties and other such occasions tend to refer to the characters in question generically, like in the case of Castle & Co. Entertainment. While they can get away with using Rapunzel, Cinderella or the Little Mermaid's names directly (owing to the fact that the Princesses are based on public domain characters to begin with; individual depictions however can be copyrighted), the same is not true with Elsa or Moana due to their iconic status as pop culture figures, so they have to resort to generic terms such as "The Ice Queen" or "Island Princess" instead; Princess Anna does seem to get a free pass for some reason. They do make a disclaimer about the arguably grey-market nature of their work as unauthorised portrayals of Disney characters though, knowing the company's legal zealousness especially with the Frozen franchise.
  • Likewise, non-Disney Halloween costume manufacturers sometimes make their own versions of the Disney Princess costumes, but can't use any princess's name that isn't in the public domain. For example, the "Little Adventurers" line of princess costumes includes Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and Tinkerbell by name, but the other costumes in the line are labeled Mermaid Princess, Beauty, Arabian Princess, Woodland Princess, Cherry Blossom Princess, Lily Pad Princess, Medieval Princess, Ice Queen and Alpine Princess, Purple Amulet Princess, Ruby Princess and Island Princess. Another costume company, Forum Novelties, has their own Elsa costume knockoff which they call "Princess Krystal."
  • A small motel in the Denver suburb of Lakewood was, for a long time, called the Bugs Bunny Motel. While their sign included a cartoon rabbit that was careful not to look anything like Bugs, obviously Warner Bros. got to them at some point anyway, and it's now called the Big Bunny Motel.
  • The sport commonly known as Muggle Quidditch has officially been renamed "Quadball", since Quidditch is already a registered trademark of Warner Bros., Scholastic, and J. K. Rowling.
  • The Lost Tales from Camp Blood shorts on the Friday the 13th DVD and Blu-ray releases feature a nameless killer that vaguely-but-not-quite resembles Jason Voorhees, and the actual name of the titular camp, "Camp Crystal Lake," is never mentioned. This is because those trademarks were with New Line Cinema at the time, and not Paramount Pictures, who was behind the releases.


Video Example(s):


Behold... er, an Eyeball.

Beholders are copyrighted by Wizards of the Coast so clearly, this must be something else.

How well does it match the trope?

4.76 (21 votes)

Example of:

Main / WritingAroundTrademarks

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