Most of us are aware of an industry called “product placement” where companies pay to get their product featured in a hit movie or television show. Being seen in a hit movie or television show can boost sales tremendously. In most cases, the product owner pays to be used in the production.
But, what if the film or television producer uses the product without being asked, and without paying? Can a company control the use of its products in popular culture and media? Unfortunately, it probably cannot exert any control over its use by the entertainment industry.
Not all publicity is desirable. What if a product is used in a violent action movie depicting guns and the company’s owners are openly anti-gun? Unfortunately, there is likely no consequence for the producer. Product placement in movies is likely to be considered fair use that does not require permission of the trademark owner. As long as the producer or filmmaker does not use the trademark in way that disparages or tarnishes it, they generally have the right to use a product bearing a product bearing a trademark in a film or TV show as long as the trademark is used as it was intended. Luckily, in most cases, product placement is positive.
Some say all publicity is good publicity. If your product is used in a way that associates you with a disagreeable message, use the opportunity to create a public dialogue about your issue. Turn lemons into lemonade. Bring attention to your message and your core values.