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INTA 2022: Licence deals are changing and counsel must adapt

Speakers from UL, YMF Carpet, Full Sail IP and Stevens & Bolton delved into the evolving dynamics and legal considerations behind brand partnerships

The dynamics behind brand partnerships are changing rapidly, speakers pointed out at the INTA Annual Meeting in Washington DC today, May 2.

Counsel at YMF Carpet, UL, Full Sail IP and Stevens & Bolton said in their session called ‘The Modern Innovative Licence: Creative Monetization Strategies for your Brand’ that the change had largely been driven by emerging partner and consumer expectations.

Jessica Cardon, general counsel at YMF Carpet in Connecticut, pointed out that celebrities and influencers, for example, increasingly wanted their own views incorporated into brand and marketing strategies.

“We worked with one person who was vegan and strongly believed in animal rights who wanted the the fragrances produced to be vegan and PETA certified,” she said.

“The people you partner with will want to impose their beliefs on you and you must work out how that will work in terms of consumer relationships.”

Sanjana Sharma, associate general counsel at UL in Chicago, added that celebrities had also started to tap into how to leverage their own statuses and extend the monetisation of their personal brands beyond what they might otherwise have enjoyed.

As a result, these celebrities are becoming much more sophisticated in their brand partnership negotiations. “They are aware of how they add value in respect to marketing and social media and they will negotiate with you to pay higher royalty rates,” she said.

Legal and business thinking

To adapt to these changing circumstances, counsel should keep a few legal and business considerations in mind, said the speakers.

Tom Lingard, partner at Stevens & Bolton in the UK, said it was important to conduct due diligence.

“You need to make sure you have the right partners, make a risk assessment and ensure you have a plan if something goes wrong. Do you have a morality clause in your contract, for example?”

Sharma agreed, likening brand partnerships to relationships and marriages. “Some of these relationships go the distance but others don’t and there needs to be something in place to terminate them in those instances,” she said.

Lingard added: “You need a prenup.”

Alan Kravetz, CEO of Full Sail IP in Connecticut, added that strategic research was also critical. He pointed out that the collaboration between French fashion house Balenciaga and The Simpsons was so successful – despite seeming like an odd team up – because of research.

“These collaborations might seem like odd matches, but they’re extremely well researched and really project creativity in a wonderful way.”

Final pointers

Speakers finished their session with one key takeaway each.

Kravetz said it was important to look towards future developments so not to accidentally give away tomorrow’s developments today.

“Imagine you’d made a deal related to wired phones just before the cell phone really exploded,” he said.

Cardon said licensing required strategic planning and that it was important to expand into categories that were natural extensions of the business.

Sharma added that it was vital for counsel to pick partners carefully. “You should choose nimble and experienced partners with as much care as you might choose a spouse,” she said.

Lingard reiterated that it was important to consider exit strategies early on.

The INTA Annual Meeting is being held this week at the Walter E Washington Convention Center in Washington DC.

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