Godzilla is back! This time, the bad guy is a U.S. brewery that is accused of illegally infringing on trademarks and copyrights held by a Japanese company. Earlier this month, an Associated Press article reported the filing of a lawsuit against a brewer for unlawful use of the Mechagodzilla character Toho on its beer cans. According to the court filings, Toho is a trademarked character and protected by intellectual property laws.
No matter what kind of entertainer you are – actor, artist or athlete -, or if you manage or support entertainers, it is important to protect your intellectual property and rights of personality. Licensing is one way of protecting your carefully crafted talents, images and trademarks.
A trademark is an element that identifies a service or good and distinguishes it from other, similar services or goods – a “brand” name or other identifier. A trademark can be one of – or a combination of – the following:
- Slogan or word
- Logo or symbol
It is important to safeguard your brand from unauthorized use by another. Typically, intellectual property lawyers help individuals and companies establish their brands by securing a federal trademark registration and then licensing its use.
Trademark licensing allows the owner of the trademark to “license” its use to another person or entity – a licensee. Written licensing agreements outline specifics regarding how, where and when the trademark can be used by the licensee and establishes the royalties paid for its use. The licensor – the trademark owner – is in charge of enforcing and controlling the provisions of the agreement.
Licensing intellectual property
Licensing is also available for other types of intellectual property, and there are a number of steps to take to protect your innovations, services, rights of publicity and talents. As your attorney guides you through the licensing process, keep these tips in mind:
- Do your research: Before spending money to obtain a copyright, patent or trademark, make sure another person or entity does not owns rights to it already.
- Write it down: As you develop an idea or design, get in the habit of keeping detailed records. This is also important as you negotiate a license agreement. If a dispute should arise in the future, your notes may be helpful in proving your ownership rights.
- Negotiate: If an entity wants to obtain rights to use an intellectual asset you own, assume that most provisions of the licensing agreement are negotiable. In many cases, licensees may claim their “standard” forms cannot be changed, but that is not usually the case.
- Monitor and enforce: From the start, be diligent about enforcing rights and restrictions on the use of your intellectual property. If you let one individual get away with illegal use of your image, for example, others may think it is fair game.
A lawyer can help
An entertainment attorney can help you secure and safeguard your intellectual property assets. Consult an intellectual property lawyer to avoid potential pitfalls with licensing issues and to enforce licensing agreements.