A fellow lawyer friend who just might love music as much as I do (the jury is still out on whether that is true or not 🙂), shared with me an article about the song Margaritaville. The basis is that the song is quite possibly the most lucrative song in existence. The article went onto explain that while it is not the biggest selling song or the most played song on the radio that what truly gives it value is the fact that the song morphed into something bigger.
The song is now a trademark tied to merchandise, hotels, bars, clothing and is representative of an overall lifestyle. From an intellectual property standpoint, while the copyright in the song and in the various sound recordings have value, the real value comes in the trademark that the title of the song has become. I encourage you to read the entire article about Margaritaville Enterprises that claimed $100 million in revenue in 2007 by going here.
Since my post To Kill a Trademark Registration about the trademark dispute going on with the title to the book To Kill a Mockingbird, I have been more than fascinated in how trademarks gain value. In particular I have been thinking about how an originally creative work, such as a song or a book title, transforms into being larger than the actual creative content it represents and blossoms into a brand. I have also been pondering the benefits that could come from an artist going ahead and registering a trademark in the category of selling clothing – i.e. collector t-shirts from a concert, coffee mug souvenirs or any other miscellaneous items.
After reading the To Kill a Trademark Registration post and knowing my love of books, another friend shared with me the website for Out of Print Clothing. This website capitalizes on taking artwork and titles from famous books and then turning it into everything from clothing to iPhone cases. The website states:
“We work closely with artists, authors and publishers to license the content that ends up in our collections.”
It is refreshing to know that the creators of these items do realize the need to license. As you explore the website, you can also find where the company use to offer a shirt celebrating To Kill a Mockingbird. However, the shirt is no longer available. You can check out the link showing that by visiting HERE. I cannot help but wonder how they sought licensing permission in order to initially take part in printing this shirt.
What is the lesson here for musicians and filmmakers? I think the lesson is that if you start experiencing some sort of success with a project that has a catchy title, then it does not hurt and could maybe even benefit you to start thinking about going through the process of filing a trademark. Also, you surely would not want to be in the position as Harper Lee where you fail to do so and then have to fight another organization that is taking your title and profiting from it. As the Margaritaville article above pointed out, the song Margaritaville did not have a great deal of music acclaim. It only peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard 100 Chart. The real value has come from Buffett‘s ability to capitalize on the niche audience that loves the song.
What makes creative works great is that if you create, you will eventually find your niche audience. Everything you do will have value to that niche audience whether it be in the originally created form, as in an album, or by placing that same album cover artwork on a t-shirt. And, if you’re really lucky, you may find your creative work is worth a whole lot more than a shaker of salt.
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