I have a hypothetical writers' question.

Let's say I decide to write a book about a "thing" that is subject to an active Intellectual Property owned by a corporation that still exists. For argument's sake, let's say it is about the Ford Mustang car.

The book will encompass four main areas – the various stages of the development of the original Mustang car way back when, the designer of the original Mustang (his background, and how he approached the design process), the reception of the car and it's legacy today and perhaps my own experiences as a Mustang owner back when it first launched and today.

Now clearly, Ford own the Intellectual copyright of Mustang, its logo and presumably the name itself in the context of cars. I want to understand to what extent I would be playing with fire from a legal perspective (if at all). I am aware of the "fair use" doctrine, but the guidance isn't particularly clear. I'm won't be creating and launching a new Mustang branded car (which clearly would be a problem), I'm simply writing about its history, as a review/critique piece.

So I guess these might be the sort of questions I would be asking myself:

  1. Obviously, the word "Mustang" will be used extensively throughout the book – is this a problem?
  2. Let's say I want to use a photograph either taken by someone else (with their permission) or taken by me of a Mustang car in a parking lot – do I need Ford's permission to reproduce this in my book? It's a photograph of their car, but they don't "own" the photograph, someone else does.
  3. Can I use the "Mustang" logo and/or any brochure extracts released by Ford over the years?
  4. After interviewing the car's designer, they've shared with me some interesting design drawings, that he personally owns. Again, can I reproduce these assuming I have his permission? And further, if I come across memos and design documents and photographs housed in a car museum, that they give me permission to refer to, reproduce and use, can I use those in my book? From a legal perspective, where would Ford stand on this?
  5. The book's title. Am I free to go with "The history of the Ford Mustang"? or would it be need to be more left-field: "The MustangMan" or something along those lines.
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So the general question is, given the nature of the book (essentially a positive celebration of the Ford Mustang as a "thing"), would I need to approach Ford and get their blessing/approval for what I plan to do?

Any insight, links or pointers would be much appreciated. Thanks!

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