Licensors rake in royalties

Trademark, character, logo owners pulled in $148 mil more than in '98

NEW YORK — Owners of trademarks, characters and logos raked in nearly $5.6 billion in royalty fees from manufacturers worldwide in 1999, according to an industry-sponsored study released Tuesday. That’s $148 million more than in 1998.

Commissioned by the Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Assn. and conducted by Harvard Business School and the Yale School of Management, the study also found that the entertainment and character licensing business continues to claim the largest portion of the overall licensing market, with almost $2.53 billion — a 45% share.

The nearest rival was trademarks and brand names, with 17% of the overall take.

The Harvard-Yale study was released on the opening day of the 20th anniversary Licensing Intl. conference in Gotham.

A showcase of brands as diverse as Harry Potter, Nickelodeon and the World Wrestling Federation, the confab offered a snapshot of the growing worldwide market for spinoffs of intellectual property.

Deal making

“This is an industry where there’s not a par product being marketed,” said LIMA president Charles M. Riotto. “The show is a marketplace for ideas and a forum for deal making.”

Among those making deals were representatives of Internet-related brands and companies, including 24 dot-coms that didn’t even exist a year ago, said Advanstar group show director Diane Stone.

Those on the floor included several Web content providers looking to build brand recognition. One such brand is the Burundis, an octet of manic cartoon characters created in Mexico.

The characters, which find themselves trapped on the ‘Net and able to interact with the outside world via Web surfing, were recently snapped up by Miami-based BouncyNet, which has featured them in a series of Flash-animated Web shorts and is trying to make a push into the U.S. market. The Burundis have also been backed for a TV debut by Mexico’s Grupo Televisa.

Newbies on the floor

WhatsHotNow.com launched an online business-to-business exchange for licensing rights and licensed products at the confab. The site lets potential licensees purchase rights to make products based on brands of registered licensors (Coca-Cola and the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City are among the first to join). It also allows retailers to shop for the licensees’ branded products, like toys or T-shirts.

WHN chairman and CEO Rob Fried, who produced 1998’s “Godzilla,” said the site will charge licensors and licensees $1,000 per month to use the service after a six-month trial period. Retailers log on for free. Fried said he expects to have a total of 1,000 registered users “by the end of the month”: roughly 500 retailers, 300-400 licensees and 100 licensors.

In the traditional media sector, New Line announced it had struck licensing deals for the Adam Sandler comedy “Little Nicky” and the heavy-metal mockumentary “This Is Spinal Tap.”

McFarlane Toys will produce “Little Nicky” action figures, and Ubi Soft will produce GameBoy Color software based on the film. New Line has also been selected by StudioCanal to handle licensing and merchandising for “This Is Spinal Tap” to coincide with MGM’s re-release of the film in association with StudioCanal.

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