The Licensing Blog

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Tip of the Week: License Agreement and Additional Costs, by Andrew Richmond

Creating and marketing a licensed property is a costly, time-consuming endeavor. To improve the chance of financial success, a licensor may include provisions in its long-form license agreement requiring the licensee to pay additional costs. Depending on the licensor, some or all of these costs may be incorporated in the licensor’s standard agreement. Licensees need to be aware of the existence of these additional costs and raise issue if a given cost is perceived to be excessive or overly burdensome. A few examples and brief definitions of these costs include:

PROMOTIONS

Marketing commitment, the spend requirement to market and promote products and/or licensed property; advertising requirement, the spend requirement on television, radio, and/or print advertising; and artwork if the licensee requires licensor to create unique artwork incorporating the licensed property.

PENALTIES

Late fees if the licensee is late in paying royalties; audit fees if a licensor audit discovers that licensee underpaid past royalties in excess of the agreed percentage; transfer fees if the licensee requests to transfer license rights to another company; and a replacement Style Guide if the licensee loses style guide.

It is the licensee’s duty to identify those costs that are unreasonable, trivial, excessive, etc. and request their removal or reduction, but these additional costs are a necessary and ultimately beneficial part of the licensing process.

“Tip of the Week,” is written by attorney Andrew Richmond, president of the Richmond Management Group, Inc. (RMG). Andy has more than 15 years of business & legal affairs experience with such companies as FOX, Hallmark, JAKKS Pacific, and Sony. Currently, as president of RMG, Andy provides his clients with business and legal affairs representation, with a focus on licensing, promotions, marketing, and related matters.  Andy can be reached at andy@richmondmanagement.com.

Mounted Memories Signs to Produce Beatles Memorabilia

Mounted Memories, the sports and entertainment memorabilia manufacturing division of Dreams, Inc., has entered into a licensing agreement with Live Nation Merchandise, Inc., to produce framed presentations featuring The Beatles. The first four collectable presentations are now available at The Beatles official online store.

The first framed presentation in the series features miniature images of all 13 of The Beatles’ U.K. album cover images matted in black and complemented with the band’s official logo laser-cut into the matting. The next three presentations in the first wave are titled “1962,” “1963,” and “1964,” and celebrate those years in the band’s career with classic photos from the respective eras along with laser-cut logos. A fifth framed presentation will follow, commemorating The Beatles’ historic first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. It will debut in September.

And on a related note, because I can, I’ll share with you one of my favorite Beatles songs:

Do the best books make the best movies?

When I was little, I absolutely loved the Ramona book series written by Beverly Cleary. The movie version, Ramona and Beezus, comes out today, and I have mixed feelings about this.

Any avid book lover knows that a movie adaptation can go two ways—they can take one of your favorite stories, and all the images you pictured when you read them, and your interpretation of the characters, and totally and completely muck it up—or, they bring delight to millions of fans by bringing our favorite fictional characters to life. This balancing act between a good movie adaptation and a potential disaster is, I think, even more dangerous when we’re talking about children’s books—you don’t want to mess with people’s sense of nostalgia the wrong way.

I’ve seen some great movie adaptations of some of my favorite children’s books—Horton Hears a Who, A Little Princess, Charlotte’s Web—and I’ve also seem some pretty terrible ones, which shall remain nameless here.

The same is true of adult movies—I Am Legend, I Robot, Fight Club (yes people, it was a book first), Romeo and Juliet, My Sister’s Keeper, Lord of the Rings, The Shining, Carrie, It, and on and on.

Why do you think great books get turned into movies? Does it open up a great story for those who wouldn’t normally pick up the book, or dumb down great books and ruin the way the fans remember them? What are some of your favorite book-to-movie adaptations? What makes them successful, or not? Is it the actors, directors, setting, or some subtle combination of these elements that makes it work?

–Jennifer Ringler

Check out the trailer for Ramona and Beezus:

Rubies Costume Co. Signs Licensing Deal for The Green Hornet

In anticipation of the January 14, 2011 release of Sony Pictures’ action film, The Green Hornet, starring Seth Rogen, Rubie’s Costume Co., Inc. has obtained a license to create products ranging from deluxe costumes of Green Hornet and Kato to hats, gloves, masks, and other costumes.

In The Green Hornet, Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is the son of LA’s most prominent and respected media magnate and perfectly happy to  maintain a directionless existence on the party scene—until his father (Tom Wilkinson) mysteriously dies, leaving Britt his vast media empire. Striking an unlikely friendship with one of his father’s more industrious and inventive employees, Kato (Jay Chou), they see their chance to do something meaningful for the first time in their lives: fight crime. To get close to the criminals, they come up with the perfect cover: they’ll pose as criminals themselves. Protecting the law by breaking it, Britt becomes the vigilante The Green Hornet as he and Kato hit the streets.

Watch the trailer here.

Broadway and Licensing: The Perfect Performance?

I’m going to see a performance of RENT this Sunday at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ, performed by Phoenix Productions, central Jersey’s community theatre company. Granted it’s not the Broadway show, but I’m a total RENT-head, and when you have an addiction like mine, you take it where you can get it. Besides, I saw it on Broadway about 15 times (we know where my paycheck goes) before it so sadly closed, so I’m ready for a different atmosphere. I also saw it performed last year by a group of Rutgers college kids at a tiny theatre in New Brunswick, and it was amazing. The passion, precision, coordination, and creativity of those 20-something-aged college kids left me in awe, and frankly, quite a bit jealous. I can barely type and talk at the same time, let alone sing, dance, and act simultaneously.

I love to see my favorite live show, RENT, performed by different people, with different skills sets, in different venues. I love seeing how the same story, with the same lyrics, the same plot and ideals, can be turned into something new and exciting each time with different performers and directors, with different interpretations. And, like any RENT-head, I love my licensed RENT-stuff. I’ve got the T-shirt, sweatshirt, keychain, coffee-table book, and all my playbills. But I’m noticing a shift in licensing when it comes to Broadway; one I’d like to find out more about.

At some point, back in the day, it used to be that Broadway shows spawned licensed products. Fans would see the shows, love them, and want to own merchandise to express that love (exhibit A: my RENT T-shirt). If you walk through the theatre district in NYC, you’ll find loads of gift shops specifically themed around this concept.

Now, however, it seems that instead of great Broadway shows leading to licensed products, other forms of media and entertainment are more and more leading to Broadway shows. What am I talking about? Shrek the musical. Disney on Broadway. Monty Python on Broadway. The Wizard of Oz. Jersey Boys. Grease. Movin’ Out. I even heard a commercial on the radio yesterday advertising that Green Day’s got an award-winning Broadway show.

When did hit properties start leading to Broadway shows instead of the other way around? When and why did the theatre crowd start accepting less “serious” art, such as Monty Python, as appropriate for theatre? How does bringing entertainment such as Green Day and Shrek to Broadway make theatre more appealing and more accessible to the masses, to the “regular folks” who might not have a taste for The Merchant of Venice or Waiting for Godot? When did Broadway become a children’s entertainment venue as well as an adult one? How does this shift increase licensing sales? What’s the legal process for turning an established property, movie, band, or celebrity biography into a licensed Broadway show? How much money does Broadway take in annually from licensed products? Why do we RENT-heads pay to see the same show again and again, and pay so much for those T-shirts, when you know darn well that if I saw a regular old shirt in a store for that price, I would laugh out loud and keep walking?

I think that those questions, and more, might be the beginning of a very interesting Broadway licensing feature.

What’s your favorite Broadway show? Why do you pay so much for Broadway product? For the shows themselves? Please weigh in on this one! Inquiring minds want to know!

–Jennifer Ringler

In case you haven’t seen RENT (in which case you have missed out on one of the best parts of life on Earth), here’s my favorite song from the show:

CBS Consumer Products Re-Launches StarTrek.com

Lots of properties have fans. Lots of properties have licensed stuff. But every once in awhile, there comes a property that evolves from a brand into a living, ever-changing, sentient being, whose fans become a whole ‘nother species.

One such property is Star Trek. The brand has gone from a TV show to movies to licensed products, then moved on from there to live conventions, costume contests, and so much more—it’s a lifestyle. Like the brand itself, the fans have evolved into a culture of their own, set apart from fans of other properties because of their passion, their fervor, their creativity, and their desire for total immersion.

It is with this in mind that CBS Consumer Products today re-launched www.StarTrek.com, the online destination that brings the brand and its fans together. “StarTrek.com aims to embrace all of fandom and to be as interactive as possible,” reads an article posted on the site, about the site. The site will strive to reach that goal through exclusive celebrity interviews, guest bloggers, breaking news, an online store, biographies, pictures, the inside scoop on events, conventions, live shows, and more.

To check out the site for yourself, and read the complete article introducing the re-launch, click here.

–Jennifer Sinclair Ringler

NASCAR Forms NASCAR Teams Licensing Trust

The NASCAR industry has announced the official formation of the NASCAR Teams Licensing Trust, an industry operated organization created to provide NASCAR fans with new and innovative licensed products. The Licensing Trust, which along with the sanctioning body is initially composed of NASCAR teams including more than 30 NASCAR national series drivers, will streamline the licensing opportunities and processes for its partners and bring operational efficiency to the entire industry.

The Licensing Trust, which is open to any NASCAR national series race team that chooses to participate, will initially explore merchandising opportunities in four key categories – apparel, collectable die-cast, toys, and trackside retail. The Licensing Trust is structured to add licensing categories in the future. NASCAR and the teams will directly manage their respective licensing rights in categories outside the Licensing Trust.

The NASCAR Teams Licensing Trust has recently formed a joint venture with Lionel Electric Trains to make and sell NASCAR replica die-cast racecars.

The joint venture is not a traditional licensee agreement; both the Licensing Trust and Lionel will actively manage and develop the business, in which it will be partners.

Lionel has plans to offer fans and collectors die-cast models representing all of the teams and more than 30 NASCAR national series drivers included in the Licensing Trust. The joint venture will take over the category from Motorsports Authentics, a Concord, N.C.-based company that will instead focus on its core competency of trackside retail and be the exclusive die-cast car retailer at NASCAR tracks around the country.

CMG Announces Alliance with National Baseball Hall of Fame

CMG has announced its licensing partnership with the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and the Hall of Fame legends who are participating in the Member Licensing Program.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, located in Cooperstown, New York is an educational institution, dedicated to preserving the history of the game, honoring its excellence, and connecting generations of baseball fans around the globe through exhibits, public programs, and educational outreach. Founded in 1936 and opening its doors for the first time in 1939, the non-profit organization is three institutions in one: a Hall of Fame to honor the game’s greatest players, managers, umpires and executives; a Museum that documents the game’s history and its most compelling storylines; and a Library, which serves as the research hub and the official repository of the game.

The Museum’s collections total more than 35,000 three-dimensional artifacts, more than 2.6 Library volumes, nearly 500,000 original photographs, more than 10,000 hours of recorded media, and more. The Museum welcomes more than 300,000 visitors to Cooperstown annually, while reaching millions of school children nationwide through distance learning initiatives and videoconferencing programs. On site, the Museum hosts nearly 1,000 public programs to augment the visitor experience in the Museum.

CMG will pursue opportunities to license the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Marks and the participating member marks in the Hall of Fame Member Licensing Program.

Scholastic Media Launches New I Spy Game for Nintendo DS

Scholastic Media has announced a new addition to its I SPY franchise with the release of I SPY Universe for the Nintendo DS. I SPY Universe will take gamers on an interplanetary exploration of riddles, puzzles, and brainteasers as they try to save the universe. The game will be available at retail this summer.

Set in a unique I SPY cosmos, players must search for and find objects located on 12 photo-realistic planets to reach and repower the sun. Players unlock new planets and explore the universe by finding more than 400 objects in 36 I SPY riddles and playing six brain-teasing games. The game is being distributed by Cokem International, Ltd.

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