Negotiating Licensing Contracts That Last | Julie Brown, IMC Licensing

The Brand Licensing Podcast

April 16, 2021

We’re welcoming Julie Brown to The Brand Licensing Podcast! As IMC’s VP of Client Services, Julie is bringing her expertise in deal negotiation and contract execution to our new episode. 

About Our Guest

Some people have a presence that makes you feel instantly at ease around them — and Julie Brown is one of those people. She’s that rarest blend of character traits: A poised, friendly Type A and self-described “clean-freak, organization-freak” who carries about her an easygoing charm. Mrs. Easygoing’s motto is “Organization is the key to success,” and she spent the first 8+ years of her career in a garden variety of marketing and business development roles for corporate service firms, but finally left for a position that offered more of a relationship with clients in her day-to-day. Hence IMC.

During her tenure with us, Julie has shot up the proverbial ladder to Vice President, in no small part because she’s equally comfortable with the formality of process and spreadsheets as she is with connecting with clients and colleagues alike. And lest we make her sound too attuned to workflow, let it be noted that she’s also a photographer, an Audible aficionado, a runner, and the proud mom of Max and Charlotte, who she loves watching from the sidelines as they play sports or participate in events. The other love of her life: Wine. Her husband ranks up there, too — as does her 16-year-old rescue dog, Lola. Suffice it to remark, Julie has always made a splendid addition to our team, and rest assured you’ll immediately feel at ease around her.

Check out the full episode below, or tune in on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Don’t forget to subscribe!

Episode Transcription

Emily Randles:

Good morning, Julie.

Julie Brown:

Good morning.


Thanks for joining us on The Brand Licensing Podcast. Today we’re speaking with IMC’s Vice President of Client Services, Julie Brown. Julie has managed several of our licensing programs and is our in-house specialist on contract negotiations. Before we jump into the details of licensing contracts, Julie, can you give us a little rundown on your resume and background?


Sure, I’ve been in the licensing industry for almost nine years, all of which have been at IMC. Before that, I worked for a national accounting firm with a business development role and a regional law firm in a marketing and communications role. Both were great experiences, but I wanted more of a client-facing role and to be a little bit more involved on the marketing front, intrigued by brand management, which led me to IMC. I was able to marry both of those once from a career perspective and the client services role but then in working with brand managers on licensing programs, so perfect fit.


Great. Jumping in here with your experience and working with licensees and licensors and contracts: what is the most common mistake you see either party making in your experience?


Sure, it’s really simple, and truthfully, it’s just that either party is not reading the contract that they have in place. Often when we’re in the negotiation stage and working through redline edits, a member of the licensee and licensor’s legal team will be leading those conversations along with IMC or senior management, and they’re the ones that we’re working on with to negotiate the fine print and the terms. When we go to a day-to-day relationship, and there’s a handover, those people that we’re working with day to day to manage the program are not always familiar, don’t always read the contractual details. And so it’s really simple, we’ve got some partners that forget innocently, on what their distribution rights are, what retailers they can sell to. It’s as simple as I think not always reading the contract and being familiar with it, especially with parties with multiple contracts going. Maybe you forget some of the negotiated points that are in agreement. So always encourage our partners’ licensee and licensor to make sure that they’re reading thoroughly through their contracts and revisiting them often.


Great. If a licensee or licensor wants to review like a template License Agreement, can somebody find something they can reference?


Your agent is the best, or finding an agent is your best bet, and that’s really because we’re well versed in all the sections of the agreement and implications to the other sections within the agreement. And we can provide a recommendation based on the complexity of your brand and the license categories you want to pursue. In some cases, in really complex situations, we have agreements that cater to specific needs. And so we’ve got 50-page agreements set up. And they’re warranted; we need 50-page agreements. In other cases, we might only need a very simple agreement, maybe five to 10 pages, maybe far less, depending on the brand. I would encourage you to work with an agent or find an agent to find a template license agreement that suits your needs. It’s not one size fits all for your brand or the category. 


Yeah, that’s great advice. One other thing that comes to mind is the key terms that they should be paying attention to? So I mean, I know for you and I, we love, like bedtime reading contracts and reading the fine print, right? But probably not everyone is willing to sit down and go into the depths of the agreement. So what are some of the things that they should be paying attention to?


Sure, the most obvious is financial terms. So an agreement will lay out the royalty rate. Often, agreements have a GMR – guaranteed minimum royalty that will be associated with the agreement. So, in that case, if you’re not familiar, a licensee will give their royalty projections, and then we ask that licensee to guarantee a percentage of the royalty projection. If it’s a new agreement, it could be half of that. If it’s an ongoing agreement, and we have an established relationship, and we’re just renewing, it could be a higher percentage. And again, you’ll hear me say I think throughout this conversation, it’s dependent on the brand and the categories for licensing that we’re talking about. But GMRs are pretty common to be outlined in an agreement. From there, we’re pretty specific in outlining what the category rights are for the licensed product. Those can be, again, depending on brand and category, more broad or very, very specific depending on the needs of both parties. 

From there, we’ll outline distribution rates, specific retail channels. We’ve even gotten as specific as dedicating specific aisles within a channel, within a store for licensed rights. We’ll also outline the term of the agreement, the scope of the license, meaning is it exclusive or non-exclusive, performance requirements, typically, to keep a license agreement exclusive. We’ll also outline approval processes, effects of termination, whether the agreement expires at the end of a term or if there’s a breach of the agreement, and what that looks like. And then I would also say an important part is an assignment clause if a licensee sells their company, another business, or entity, you know, does the license agreement go with it? And what’s the process for that? So those are just some that come off the top of my head.


Yeah, I know, we’ve run into that last one, an instance of the acquisition clause, and it’s one you don’t necessarily think of, but it’s really important. Again, to your point, depending on the agreement, how long they are, but some of these agreements go for years and can change hands a couple of times. So I think that that’s a good call out.


Yeah, it’s not as obvious as the financial terms and the distribution channels and the licensed product category, like the obvious call-outs. But with assignment clauses, you know, we’ve had licensees who have just assumed that they can sell the company and the license goes with it, and their agreement would say otherwise. The agreement says that, and every agreement is different, I’ll say, but we’ve had agreements that don’t just allow for the license agreement to be assigned to the new company. It has to be approved by the licensor, and there’s a process, and there’s a timeline dedicated for doing that. Often, when licensees are up against sales, or they’re looking for that to be done very quickly, and you know, maybe a licensor can’t do it as quickly or the timeline needed of the licensee. So it’s important upfront for licensees to understand that section.


So when you think about one of your clients getting ready to negotiate a license agreement, what do you recommend to them. And the first thing that comes to mind is armoring up when they agree that you know that you take a different approach. So can you walk us through that?


Sure. My advice is, to be fair, I hear you on the armoring up, which feels like what you would want to do to go into the agreement—but being fair and looking for terms that shape a long-term successful relationship. Often, our clients are looking for the best financial terms and getting the product in the market as soon as possible to start earning the revenue stream. And while that’s important, sometimes squeezing your licensee for GMR, for the royalty rate will hinder them from investing in the program into the future and for marketing it appropriately. And so we want to set both parties up for success, and I think just really being fair to your licensee is most important and to think of this as a win-win scenario, versus the armor up scenario. Because that feels like that’s your gut when you go into the contract negotiations, I want to be hard. I want to stand firm, but understanding each other’s perspective is incredibly important, and drafting an agreement that meets both needs will suit both into the long term.


Yep. And I think the agreements are protection and guidelines. But it’s working well with your partner. And so you want to set the stage when you go into negotiations and start this relationship. You want to set a good stage of having a fair contract so that you’re working together and hopefully not even having to look at those termination clauses or if those clauses that are there are just in case scenarios.


Yeah, that’s a great point. 


So what would you recommend to licensees when negotiating the license agreement?


Sure. Licensees will come in with conservative projections when they’re talking financials because that’s the most negotiated part of an agreement. And so, from a licensee perspective, I would say know your bottom line. We know that they will come in with the conservative projections, and we’ll push on that. But we don’t want to push so far that we’re signing the licensee up for a bad deal. And so, I would recommend the licensees have a good sense of the bottom line and your walk-away point regarding the financials. You don’t want to be squeezed beyond your comfort and cannot deliver a successful long-term partnership.


Yep, that’s great advice. What key sections should licensees make sure are included in their license agreements?


The template license agreements, pretty thorough and would address most of what I think a licensee and the licensor need to tackle in the agreement. But I think a couple of things come to mind just from the licensee perspective, and that would be if you’re the licensee and have multiple product lines. You’re selling, say, you know, we have licensees that sell maybe private label or their own branded product, or maybe they have other licenses. I think being transparent about that and ensuring that that’s acknowledged within your license agreement with a new client or the new licensor is important. Often, I think we’ve done that and an exhibit, and then in the back of the agreement, just making sure that everyone is well aware of those product lines and how the proposed program will fit within that offering that the client already has, or the licensee already has. So that’s one thing. 

I think one thing that differs, depending on the contract, is the definition of net sales. And so I would make sure that it’s really clear how royalties are to be reported and how net sales are defined. And how is that defined, but beyond that, what deductions are you allowed to take? How do you treat returns in the reporting of royalties regularly? And so I would make sure that you understand those sections because they can vary differently, depending on what contract you’re negotiating with your brand owner.


I know you can’t see me because we’re in this podcast world, but I’m nodding along. That’s all great advice. If there’s a term that the licensor won’t budge on and you’re concerned about, should you walk away?


It depends on the term. My advice for licensees when they’re negotiating agreements is to know their bottom line. And if you’re being pushed financially beyond comfort, yes, I think you should walk away. But I think there are other terms that you’ll find maybe one party or, you know, the licensor is not budging on. I think you need to talk to your brand licensing agent. This is where we’re experts. We know how to find creative ways to solve the problem representing the client. We know their perspective and perspective on the term and why that’s such a sticking point for them. And often, knowing that background, we’re able to find the compromise and find a creative solution to address the need. And so I wouldn’t just walk away at the first sticking point. I would engage in conversation with the agent. This is where we are valuable in these relationships.


The majority of the time, we’re representing the brand’s licensors. Do licensees ever have agents that can help them?


Absolutely. Many agents will call that in terms of their service offering as a manufacturer’s Rep., and so that happens. We’ve got plenty of deals where we’ve worked with a licensee’s agent as well and negotiated directly with the agent to agent.


Perfect. I know those agents can help find the right brands and guide the licensees and terms, and especially if they’ve never taken on a license before, I recommend just getting that guidance on the agreement part. Absolutely. Jumping back into kind of more nitty-gritty on the terms of a license agreement, one thing that stands out is exclusivity. Can you talk to us about how exclusivity typically works within a license agreement? If you’re kind of how it works for the license or what should they consider? And if you’re a licensee, what should you consider in terms of exclusivity?


Yeah, assuming it is not an in and out program. I think it’s important to understand that licensees truly treat themselves as an extension of your brand and are looking to build a meaningful long-term program. They’re investing in this program, and they value the partnership with their licensors. Depending on the category, and again, the brand, as I’ve said, most licensees will require exclusivity, and it’s a fair request. As a brand owner, you wouldn’t want multiple companies pitching the same product to buyers. It’s not a cohesive look for your brand, but there are some exceptions here. The territory is meaningful in this conversation. 

We’ve had licensees that have had exclusive rights depending on the territory. So country-specific, maybe North America per specific region, the specific territory is one place where you could define exclusivity. Another is in retail channels. So you could grant exclusivity to a partner in, say, mass channels, but then a different partner in specialty channels, for example. So those are two ways that you can define exclusivity, but it is a fair request for a licensee to get that and for a licensor, in my opinion, to grant it to the licensee.


Great. And I think something that we’ve run into that I’d love for you to touch on a little bit for our listeners is, what if the licensor says one: I’m happy for the licensee to do this. But I may want to create something similar in the future. How does granting exclusivity to the licensee prohibit a brand from entering the same category or doing something for themselves in the future? And are there workarounds for that?


Yeah, we’ve granted sole licenses for clients who wanted those rights to produce products in the future in the licensed product category. It’s not an ideal scenario. It’s not one that I would recommend, but it has been a creative way to solve a problem. In the past, with some licensors and some licensees. I would say we are very transparent in those conversations with the licensee. If we’re doing that, if the licensor grants the sole license, it would be appropriate to say, Okay, I’m entering the category as a brand owner in this licensed product category, that’s going to have a negative impact on the licensee’s sales in the future. And so what are the provisions if that happens? We do have agreements and scenarios where we’ve said there would be an equitable adjustment to guaranteed minimum royalties if that were the case that a licensor entered the category. Again, it’s not a scenario I would recommend, but it has been a way we’ve solved a problem with other agreements and just being transparent with all parties.


Yeah, no, and I think that the transparency part is the most important. I’m sure there’s a strategic reason why someone would or wouldn’t want to have that clause in an agreement. So to your more previous point, it’s just being fair and doing what’s right so that everybody feels aligned to the agreement. And then going on from exclusivity, can you talk to us about auto-renewals? We talked a bit about the term and the importance, but where do auto-renewals kind of land in an agreement?


Yeah, we have a fair amount of agreements with auto-renewal clauses, and we’ll typically do that by assigning a performance hurdle in the agreement to the licensee. And typically, that’s done, we would say, you know, in the initial term of the agreement, your cumulative sales have to hit X goal, and once you hit, it triggers the auto-renewal. And within the auto-renewal will have predefined financial terms, as in the royalty rate, we’re assuming is the same, or maybe there’s a change in royalty rate. We’ve seen that happen. And then here’s those GMR, guaranteed minimum royalty requirement for the auto-renewal. So that’s typically how we’ve done it where a performance hurdle triggers that auto-renewal within an agreement. 


Perfect, that’s great. The last thing I want to touch on is if you don’t have that auto-renewal, how do the renewals work in general?


Yeah, typically a year, maybe we’ve squeezed some too much closer timeframes. But I would say a year out, start having those negotiations is fair because they can extend for a few months, and it’s just for business continuity. I think it is helpful for licensees to have those renewals in place. So we’ll start negotiating those terms, say a year in advance. It is not as in-depth of a process of signing the original agreement. It can be done as simply as agreeing to the extended term. What’s the length of time? And then what are those financial implications? What are the additionally guaranteed minimums? Sometimes in our renewal period, we might adjust other clauses within the agreement. I’ve seen distribution channels be altered, whether they’re expanded or restricted. I’ve seen the licensed product category gets expanded or restricted after the initial term. Again, others depend on the brand and the category, but it’s done simply via an amendment. And, you know, those are two, two pages, three pages, again, depending on how many terms that we’re altering in the agreement.


Perfect. That’s helpful. So wrapping up, we’re just curious here on what’s your favorite part about working with licensees and licensors and negotiating agreements?


Well, no shock. I think it’s just those finding those creative solves and problem-solving. Then there’s not ever been an agreement that we’ve negotiated that’s gone perfectly smoothly, where the licensee says here are my proposed terms the licensor says great, sure, sign us up, and it’s just signed, sealed done. I like getting involved when we can help both parties feel like they’ve gotten a win and that we’re setting both partners up to succeed in the future. That typically involves a little bit of work and back and forth on our end to find that the Creative Problem solves. So that’s my favorite part, I nerd out and do this and enjoy working with both parties.


No, I know all of our clients and licensees think you do a great job, and so your expertise is very much appreciated by them. If people want to find you online or connect, what’s the best way to do that?


I can be reached by email. I’m I’m also on LinkedIn. My name is common, so you can find me under the IMC about page.


Perfect. Thank you. Julie, thank you so much for joining us today on the brand licensing podcast. I think you’ve given both licensees and licensors great insight into what they should be thinking about when negotiating and working on a license agreement.


Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure.

IMC Licensing Logo Mark

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    July 23, 2020

  • The Brand Licensing Podcast – Launch Lineup

    We’re counting down the days until the launch of The Brand Licensing Podcast and can’t wait to share our upcoming…

    The Brand Licensing Podcast

    July 23, 2020

  • Introducing The Brand Licensing Podcast

    Our team is excited to announce the launch of The Brand Licensing Podcast. The podcast will be available across streaming platforms on July…

    The Brand Licensing Podcast

    July 23, 2020

  • IMC’s Program Management Services

    Once we’ve executed a thoughtful licensing strategy  and connected you with the perfect licensee via our  solicitation services, we don’t ghost. We’re in it…

    Julie Brown

    July 23, 2020

  • Restaurant Licensing: Product Extension Strategy Approach

    We recently spoke with a leading casual dining restaurant chain about licensing their brand. They wanted three things:  I was really struggling…

    IMC Licensing

    May 27, 2020

  • IMC’s Licensing Solicitation Services

    So, you’re looking to jump into licensing solicitation and start your search for potential partners. Where do you begin? This is where we come into the picture! At…

    Julie Brown

    May 19, 2020

  • IMC’s Strategy Services

    As experts a top brand licensing agency, IMC offers three core services: licensing strategy services, partner solicitation, and program management.…

    Julie Brown

    April 22, 2020

  • Are you a Good Licensor? Tips to Maximize your Partnership with Licensees

    As a licensor, you have high expectations of your licensees. And you should! You manage a leading brand and business…

    Julie Brown

    March 31, 2020

  • Trends in the Outdoor Industry & How Brand Licensing Can Help Fuel Growth

    We recently attended the 70th Outdoor Retailer show in Denver, CO. Outdoor Retailer happens twice a year. There is a…

    IMC Licensing

    February 28, 2020

  • Brand Licensing vs. Patent Licensing – How to launch a new product through Licensing

    We get several calls from start-up companies and entrepreneurs about utilizing licensing to launch their product. The conversation usually goes…

    IMC Licensing

    January 28, 2020

  • The Basics of Royalty Accounting: What You Need to Know

    Royalty accounting can be somewhat complex, especially depending on the contract terms that are negotiated. However, once you have an…

    IMC Licensing

    May 3, 2019

  • Don’t make this common mistake with your license agreement

    It’s fairly common, a licensee’s legal or executive team negotiates and signs the licensing agreement and then hands the reigns…

    Julie Brown

    May 1, 2019

  • Royalty Accounting – Guaranteed Minimum Royalties (GMR)

    Today, most businesses prefer not to guarantee results in a contract — let alone guarantee sales results. This is what…

    IMC Licensing

    April 10, 2019

  • What Should My Licensing Royalty Rate Be?

    Inevitably one of the first questions asked is how much will we earn in royalty revenue. As an industry expert…

    IMC Licensing

    March 21, 2019

  • Mitigating Your Brand Licensing Risks

    Some consider licensing out their brand very risky, while others would argue that licensing out their brand is a low-risk…

    IMC Licensing

    February 14, 2019

  • Outdoor Retailer

    One of our clients is looking for new partners in the outdoor space. With Outdoor Retailer happening down in Denver, I jumped…

    IMC Licensing

    December 3, 2018

  • Licensing Show 2018

    We stopped exhibiting at the licensing show when it moved from NY to Las Vegas. That seems like ages ago,…

    IMC Licensing

    May 29, 2018

  • Licensing Show 2017

    Like many industries, once a year the licensing community descends on Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay. The show offers something for…

    IMC Licensing

    June 5, 2017

  • Licensing During Disruption: How Licensing Can Serve the Auto Industry as it has Served Others

    Disruption: The Only Constant Did you ever think you would buy toilet paper on your phone? Neither did supermarkets. Did…

    Stephen Reily

    May 1, 2017

  • 2nd Annual Licensing Summit in New York

    It was our first year attending the 2nd annual Licensing Summit in New York and we’re so glad we added this conference to…

    Julie Brown

    March 7, 2017

  • Brand Licensing 2016 Update

    2016 was another great year for us here at IMC. We enjoyed working with our licensing partners and meeting with…

    IMC Licensing

    February 6, 2017

  • 2017 Licensing Trade Shows – Tips and Tricks

    I can’t believe there hasn’t been a funny movie made about the trade show experience. You know you can relate!…

    IMC Licensing

    January 15, 2017

  • A product launch hits close to home: Introducing the new line of AT&T mhealth Baby Monitors

    As a licensing program manager, I always get excited for a new product launch at retail.  Licensees, licensors, agents, manufacturers,…

    Julie Brown

    March 28, 2016

  • Connect and Share with New AT&T Baby Monitors, Available Exclusively at Babies “R” Us

    Baby’s Journey and AT&T Enter the Baby Monitor Category to Provide Parents a New, Convenient and Secure View into Baby’s…

    Julie Brown

    February 16, 2016

  • It’s Cool To Be Healthy: How Marketing Saved Wellness’ Business Model

    Is cheesecake the new tobacco?  That’s a question asked that has highlighted both good news –the New York Times last week, Americans Are…

    IMC Licensing

    August 5, 2015

  • When Products do the Talking: Volvo Life Paint Says it All

    At this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity only one campaign won two Grand Prix Awards (in Design and Promo/Activation), and…

    Stephen Reily

    July 15, 2015

  • The 5 Hottest Topics at Cannes Lions 2015: Women, Girls, Girls, Women, and Girls

    Last year Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg came to the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, and boy did she make a difference. …

    Stephen Reily

    June 29, 2015

  • 4 Reasons Why Licensing Needs Digital Marketing

    Five years ago many of our licensing clients (global CPG brands among them) weren’t even using digital marketing and social…

    Stephen Reily

    June 26, 2015

  • Stories Beat Data: And Other Marketing Insights from Cannes Lions 2015

    For all the lessons technology teaches us, did you ever feel like it also ignores some of the most important…

    Stephen Reily

    June 26, 2015

  • 3 Proven Ways to Save Your Brand from the Brink: Business Comeback Stories

    Though it’s a few years old, I recently re-read “The Biggest Business Comebacks of the Past 20 Years” shared the stories of…

    Stephen Reily

    May 6, 2015

  • Earned Social Media = Earned Consumer Trust

    Brands are constantly seeking the loyal consumer. Not the one who buys occasionally, but the one who follows through on…

    IMC Licensing

    April 24, 2015

  • Four Things Great Brand Licensing Partners Do

    Batman and Robin. Brin and Page. Ben & Jerry. Some business partnerships are so great that they appear to happen…

    IMC Licensing

    January 13, 2015

  • My 3 Lessons from CES: How Tech Makes Great Products Happen

    This year’s CES (bigger than ever, and more interesting than usual) failed to offer one show-stopping piece of technology, but…

    Stephen Reily

    January 8, 2015

  • Rethinking the 4 P’s for a Digital World

    Since Jerome McCarthy laid out the Four P’s in 1962, we’ve been able to take for granted that a successful…

    IMC Licensing

    December 8, 2014

  • Do you buy “Charmin” or “Toilet Paper”? Category Managers Know, Even if You Don’t

    When you make your shopping list, do you think about buying a category or a brand? Even if you think…

    Stephen Reily

    November 4, 2014

  • Lowe’s OSHbot: The Robot Holiday Sales Associate

    When Orchard Supply Warehouse, a California based home improvement and gardening retailer, was purchased by Lowe’s last year, its employees…

    IMC Licensing

    November 4, 2014

  • Why Mobile Matters this Holiday Season

    My friend called me from Target last week. “I am standing between the Halloween costumes and Christmas decorations, what is…

    IMC Licensing

    November 4, 2014

  • Are you ready to buy a Chiquita-brand orange?

    Chiquita Brands, a former IMC client, found itself in play this year, with competing offers from the Ireland-base Fyffes, the world’s…

    Stephen Reily

    October 30, 2014

  • Private Label Means Growth – Even for Brands

    Only a decade ago, it was not easy to use the terms “private label” and “brand” together. But private label…

    Stephen Reily

    October 13, 2014

  • 4 Keys to a Knockout Private Label Program

    Gil Phillips, Vice President of Corporate Brands at Kroger told the Cincinnati Enquirer about their house brand strategy, “We’re not offering…

    IMC Licensing

    October 7, 2014

  • The rise of consumer as chief storyteller – and brands’ new supporting role

    The beginning of the end of storytelling, announced David’s Berkowitz’ piece in Ad Age last week. The end of storytelling? The…

    IMC Licensing

    September 25, 2014

  • Retail development isn’t just about getting into Walmart

    Every business that has ever developed a product dreams of getting on shelf at a Walmart or Home Depot. Big…

    IMC Licensing

    September 18, 2014

  • New channel strategies: Sometimes disruptive innovation is a where, not a what

    Our CEO, Carla Dearing, recently wrote about what makes an innovative product disruptive. Thanks to technology, we assumed for many years that…

    Stephen Reily

    September 4, 2014

  • McDonalds and Starbucks: How Both Get Coffee Pricing Wrong (and Dunkin Doesn’t)

    Kraft Foods recently entered into a license agreement with McDonald’s to deliver McCafé Coffee to a supermarket near you. While…

    Stephen Reily

    September 3, 2014

  • From Budget Friendly to Premium: Will Consumers Buy Into a Premium Priced McCafe?

    I have something I have to get off my chest. I don’t drink coffee. There I said it. I don’t…

    IMC Licensing

    August 24, 2014

  • 5 Top Licensing Trends for Restaurant Brands at Retail: Which Chains Should be in Supermarkets Now?

    Licensing restaurant brands into supermarket products is nothing new.  Brands like Marie Callendar’s (in pies and frozen dinners), TGI Friday’s…

    Stephen Reily

    August 11, 2014

  • Disruptive Innovation: Products That More People Want

    Less is more.  So the theory goes with “disruptive innovation.” A new product is disruptive innovation if it has something…

    IMC Licensing

    July 16, 2014

  • 5 Ways to Evaluate a Potential Licensee

    Licensing a company to expand your trademark into other product categories can be rewarding to your bottom line and strengthen…

    IMC Licensing

    July 15, 2014

  • Consumers Followed Their Noses: How Fragrance Ended Up Everywhere

    Is there any product that doesn’t come in a scented version?  Today you can buy not just scented candles but…

    Stephen Reily

    June 12, 2014

  • The Omni-Product Brand

    Since 1997, IMC has been helping the owners of global iconic brands find ways to grow through new products and…

    Stephen Reily

    April 3, 2014

  • Backing into Innovation: Capturing New Consumers for Hearing Aids

    While I was at International CES earlier this month I had a chance to meet with leaders of the hearing aid business…

    Stephen Reily

    January 28, 2014

  • Lean In to Cause Marketing?

    When it comes to business, the talented male professional is perceived as “boss” while the talented woman professional in the…

    IMC Licensing

    January 17, 2014

  • CES 2014 – Innovative Partnerships, not Products

    Last week I was one of the 150,000 people swarming around Las Vegas for International CES.  While the show has never…

    Stephen Reily

    January 15, 2014

  • What an Omnichannel World Means for Brand Licensing

    If you want to develop great products that actually sell at retail, you are probably already thinking about how to…

    Stephen Reily

    January 2, 2014

  • Starbucks, Kraft and the $2.7 Billion Divorce

    Last week’s LIMA Bottom Line featured an article I wrote about the recent resolution of a long-running dispute between Starbucks…

    Stephen Reily

    December 23, 2013

  • 7 Most Inspiring Products for Old People are Great New Products for You, Too.

    IMC’s hometown hosted the Louisville Innovation Summit last week  Aging care is a growth industry for Louisville (headquarters for companies like Kindred,…

    Stephen Reily

    November 18, 2013

  • More than Just a Hill of Beans

    Kraft Foods recent announcement of its intent to test market McCafe packaged coffee adds a deep, new wrinkle to the already interesting…

    IMC Licensing

    November 15, 2013

  • Keeping Your Options Open in Licensing

    Licensors with iconic brands often have to make tough choices about extending their brands in new markets through licensing versus…

    IMC Licensing

    November 4, 2013

  • Licensing at Tiffany’s: Not a One-Way Street

    On vacation this summer I needed to get my sunglasses repaired.  While waiting, I was surprised to look in the…

    Stephen Reily

    September 16, 2013

  • What Licensing Agencies Can Do For You: A Tale of Chocolate Cereal

    One of IMC’s most deliciously licensed products is Kellogg’s Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory cereal. The coco-brown box features the names…

    IMC Licensing

    September 4, 2013

  • What does the Local Food Movement Mean for Food Licensing?

    In my hometown of Louisville – a city proud of its food culture in a state proud of its farming…

    Stephen Reily

    August 8, 2013

  • Licensing by Litigation: A Bad Business Plan

    Two large-scale lawsuits in the licensing world have recently been stopped by injunctions.  After spending millions of dollars on legal…

    Stephen Reily

    August 1, 2013

  • Paula Deen and Food Licensing: Why Didn’t She have More to Lose?

    Paula Deen, as a brand with great licensing potential, seems almost beyond repair.  While I can imagine strategies that would…

    Stephen Reily

    July 30, 2013

  • What’s Your Innovation Reality?

    I was recently reviewing some notes from a talk I heard almost two years ago – one that continues to…

    Stephen Reily

    July 24, 2013

  • Just Married

    Often times we describe a licensing partnership much like a marriage. The Licensee and Licensor meet, are engaged by signing…

    IMC Licensing

    June 27, 2013

  • Purina Tidy Cats® and Glade™ Tough Odor Solutions: A perfect match

    The partnership between Purina Tidy Cats and Glade Tough Odor Solutions has developed a scented cat litter which has customers…

    IMC Licensing

    June 20, 2013

  • Integrating New Products with Licensed Properties

    Demands on new product development have greatly increased over the last decade with increased need for speed to market, lowering…

    IMC Licensing

    June 17, 2013

  • The Humanization Of Our Pets: Key Survey Findings

    The cliche is that pets look like their owners- but will they use the same products? The theory at IMC…

    IMC Licensing

    June 10, 2013

  • What Do Pet Owners Want Next?

    The pet industry is one of our favorites, and not just because most of us at IMC have pets of…

    Stephen Reily

    June 5, 2013

  • Sharing the Love of Brands with Your Pet!

    Pet owners are passionate about their furry little friends and they spend over $50 billion annually to prove it.  They…

    IMC Licensing

    April 4, 2013

  • What Makes Martha Stewart Such a Bad Partner?

    I’ve read lots of articles about Martha Stewart’s recent bout of litigation, but none of them addresses why someone would…

    Stephen Reily

    March 21, 2013

  • 2013 Housewares Show: Forging New Partnerships

    The 2013 International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago is the largest housewares-only fair in the world with 60,000 home goods professionals…

    IMC Licensing

    March 14, 2013

  • A Tale of Two Cracker Barrels

    When I saw that Cracker Barrel, the southern-fried restaurant chain, had recently licensed its brand to John Morrell Group, a…

    Stephen Reily

    February 6, 2013

  • Why Does Licensing Love the Holidays?

    In the licensing world, most royalty payments are made on a quarterly basis. Any licensing professional can immediately tell you…

    IMC Licensing

    December 20, 2012

  • The Slow Death of Commission-Only Deals

    Truly successful brand extensions are the result of pairing leading consumer brands with products that enhance the brand’s reputation and…

    IMC Licensing

    November 26, 2012

  • The Benefits of Brand Licensing: Quickly Explained

    As advertising is faced with a rapidly changing environment, brand owners and brand managers are looking for smart and new…

    IMC Licensing

    November 1, 2012

  • Reinforcing Your Brand Through Licensing

    Some licensed products are very much like the brand’s core product itself. They may be used the same way (like…

    IMC Licensing

    October 15, 2012

  • A Primer on Licensing

    Wherever industry regulars gather, they’re sure to discuss the world’s largest licensor; the world’s citizenry buys more than $23 billion…

    Stephen Reily

    July 27, 2012

  • Working With Licensing Agents and Consultants

    Brand licensing agencies and consultants can play a central role in the development of an effective licensing program. Whether your…

    IMC Licensing

    November 22, 2010

  • Why Use a Brand Licensing Agency?

    Even if your company has an in-house licensing director or staff, there are several reasons to hire a brand licensing…

    IMC Licensing

    May 10, 2010

  • National Brands, Private Label and Licensing

    During a panel discussion about product innovation at the 2009 Grocery Manufacturers Association’s Merchandising, Sales and Marketing Conference, one participant…

    IMC Licensing

    April 15, 2010

  • Brand Licensing 101

    As a brand and product licensing agency that develops and manages licensing programs for our clients’ trademarks and brands, we…

    IMC Licensing

    November 8, 2009

  • Retail Strategies Beyond the Top 10

    Every day the list of victims of the faltering economy grows longer.  Circuit City (#32 on National Retail Federation’s, Top…

    IMC Licensing

    September 25, 2009

  • Beyond Royalty Revenue: Measuring ROI from Licensing

    In recent surveys senior marketing professionals say that accountability for marketing services is more important than ever, and that they…

    Stephen Reily

    September 16, 2009

  • Trends in Inbound Licensing

    In the licensing industry, attention is typically focused on strategies to license a brand “out,” extending a brand into new…

    IMC Licensing

    August 19, 2008

  • The Brand Licensing Professional – Not One Size Fits All

    I cannot count the number of times I have heard companies talk about whether they should hire a “licensing professional”…

    Stephen Reily

    February 19, 2008

  • Licensing Agency Compensation: The Inside Story

    One of the needless mysteries of the licensing industry is the topic of agency compensation.  Although talented professionals neither gain…

    Stephen Reily

    February 19, 2007

  • Food for Thought (on Food and Beverage Licensing)

    Food and beverage licensing is everywhere. A quick trip to the supermarket will produce Nesquik chocolate milk, Oreo ice cream, and…

    IMC Licensing

    August 28, 2006

  • The Bankruptcy Clause in a Licensing Agreement: Comforting but Useless

    An experienced reader of license agreements would know exactly where to find what I call the “bankruptcy clause” (about three…

    Stephen Reily

    March 1, 2003

  • When Trademark Licensing looks like Franchising: Avoiding Legal Risk

    If anyone doubted that trademark licensing has become an essential part of brand management, the recent Annual Meeting of the International…

    Stephen Reily

    September 8, 2002

  • The Risks a Licensor Poses to a Licensee: How Can They Be Limited?

    Most form license agreements assume that licensees pose greater threats to licensors than the other way around.  Aside from the…

    Stephen Reily

    August 8, 2002

  • Licensing to Preserve Trademark Ownership

    As all IP counsel know, registration of a trademark depends on that trademark’s use.  A trademark cannot be reserved indefinitely…

    Stephen Reily

    July 9, 2002

  • Trademarks Around the Edges

    Many years ago, companies that made a branded consumer product thought they did only one thing: make that product.  Their…

    Stephen Reily

    March 9, 2002

  • Watch What the Licensor Does, Not What it Says

    Hiring the best trademark counsel – and getting them to draft the best possible license agreement – will not alone…

    Stephen Reily

    March 9, 2002

  • How Accountants Will Change the Face of Trademark Licensing

    As the licensing industry frets about whether the biggest event of the year will be the performance of Harry Potter…

    Stephen Reily

    November 9, 2001

  • License Agreements: Partnerships Worth Getting Right

    Whenever you see a licensor and licensee in litigation with each other you should assume that something has gone wrong…

    Stephen Reily

    September 9, 2001

  • How Many People Does it take to Screw in a Trademark Licensing Agreement

    Because so many brand owners fail to appreciate how important licensing can be for their brand, many of those who…

    Stephen Reily

    August 9, 2001

  • Developing Branded Consumer Products like Consumer Products

    Last month I described how companies find themselves distributing or authorizing branded products that either weaken the protection of their…

    Stephen Reily

    July 14, 2001

  • Why Most Companies Have Too Many Licensors

    If you looked to a corporation’s internal licensing department for evidence of trademark usage and enforcement, as well as development…

    Stephen Reily

    May 20, 2001

  • Licensing Corporate Brands and Trademarks: Knowing What it Should Cost

    As someone who runs a licensing agency for the owners of brands and trademarks, I can be expected to argue…

    Stephen Reily

    February 19, 2001


Licensing is a relationship not merely between brands, but among people. At IMC, we build and nurture both of those relationships while delivering top-notch customer care that treats — and protects — your brand as if it were our own.

About Us

We’re committed to fostering dynamic brand alliances. Often those alliances are born from one brand’s need and another’s ability to meet that need. The IMC team are experts at recognizing and creating those opportunities, but our real expertise is people. Standing side by side, as consultants, partners, peers, and as friends, we’re driven by a singular purpose: creating a smart idea.