Is Licensing a Well-Known IP Just for the Big Guys?

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How much competition is there for licensing products? Are the big players in the industry locking up all rights across all product categories, or is there still room for the little guy to license well-known properties?

There’s always competition in licensing because of the breadth and depth of the different properties — entertainment-based, brands, art, video games, social media, and more. The more popular the property, the more competition there is in licensing it.

That leads to the second part of the question about the big players locking up the rights across all product categories. You have to look at the type of licenses in terms of the product categories.

Entertainment, for example, such as a popular kids’ movie property, you’ll find many big companies – toys, apparel, home goods, and more – often lock up all those rights. But while they do get rights to a broad spectrum of products within the product categories, they can’t take everything because these companies can’t produce everything.

When I was on the studio side of licensing, we put together big deals with the major toy manufacturers. But as large as they are, they did not control the toy category. They got a significant amount of toys, but there was still plenty of room for second and third-tier companies. Even small companies and startup entrepreneurs with proprietary products or unique niches could get a license.

One thing to understand about licensing is if you’ve got a proprietary product or technology, that is an opportunity to go after rights for a popular entertainment property or consumer brand. So, although the big players lock up a significant amount of licensing rights, they don’t get them all, leaving an opportunity for even the small guy to get in there and license the well-known properties. And keep in mind, both the licensors and especially the retailers are always looking for new innovative products to keep their licensing programs fresh and generating revenue.

So, if you are a small guy with a new innovative product, I absolutely encourage you. Pick up the phone. Give them a call because that’s what they’re looking for, and that’s how you’ll get a shot a licensing a well-known IP.

Got a question about licensing? Send an email to, and I’ll answer it in a future post.

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