“Should I Take This License or Pass?

Posted by Marty Brochstein on November 17, 2010

I just finished moderating a really good LIMA webinar, with Will Thompson of Changes Inc. and Rick Mallow of Making Connections  offering their perspectives on how licensees evaluate licenses — and the companies that own them. That, actually, was a key takeaway: It’s not just about the property itself, but also about the company that a manufacturer is committing itself to do business with.

Does it have a history of trusting the licensee to know its own category? Does it make artwork available, and does it process approvals in a timely manner? Is it going to protect its IP? Does it have a history of “slpicensing?” Mallow advised potential licensees to keep an eye out for additional fees that might not be discussed in advance — art and style guide charges, advertising requirements, etc.

It’s easy to be aware of the hyped brands and entertainment properties. There’s a well-oiled publicity and marketing machine devoted to that. But scouting out the less-than-obvious properties is an art unto itself, and requires some heavy-duty networking, as well as a fair amount of less structured techniques — regular visits to You Tube, fan sites and other social media outposts; hanging out in malls and noticing what your target demographic seems to be reacting to.

Thompson noted that trend retailer Hot Topic has long subsidized store employees’ concert tickets, provided they submit a report on what people — onstage and off — were wearing, and any other things they noted at the event that might give some early indication on how tastes might be changing. He also has sometimes gotten an indication of less-than-obvious growth properties by keeping track of what’s being bootlegged on the street.

Next up in the LIMA webinar series: a December 15 session focused on how brand owners of all sizes can build an international intellectual property protection strategy, including enforcement. Participants will include representatives from the U.S. Government’s International Trade Administration.