In late 2015, an unexpected name popped up in the liquor industry press: Bob Dylan. A trademark application for the term “bootleg whiskey” had been filed under Mr. Dylan’s name. Among those who noticed the news was Marc Bushala, 52, a lifelong fan and a liquor entrepreneur whose bourbon brand, Angel’s Envy, had just been sold for $150 million. Mr. Bushala said he immediately spent weeks “obsessing over this concept of what a Dylan whiskey could be.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently upheld the district court's decision finding Robin Thicke’s and Pharrell Williams’ chart-topping 2013 hit "Blurred Lines" infringed the copyright on Marvin Gaye's song "Got To Give It Up." The Ninth Circuit also upheld the district court’s award of more than $3 million in actual damages, $5 million in infringer’s profits and a continuing royalty of 50% of future songwriter and publishing revenues generated from the song.
When trademark licensors grant a licensee exclusive rights to manufacture and sell licensed products, they often reserve the right to engage in negotiations with one or more potential replacement licensees during a certain period of time before the conclusion of the exclusive license agreement.
Are we about to say farewell to Geoffrey the Giraffe, the Toys R Us mascot? Are we never again to be serenaded by the jingle “I’m a Toys R Us kid”? Or is this just adieu (until we meet again)? Toys R Us filed for liquidation on March 15, 2018, seeking to shutter its 735 stores and sell off its inventory.
When a brand takes a position on an important issue, that position becomes associated with not just the core product or service of the licensor, but the licensed products as well. We need to understand how and why brands often feel compelled to take a stand. That brings me to The Power of Licensing #3.
Licensing relies on the strength and integrity of brands and how brands communicate their message to consumers and other stakeholders. Indeed, licensing is one of the marketing tools that brands can utilize. It is essential for those of us in the licensing community to understand the equities of brands and how brands can strengthen those equities but also how brands can damage those equities.