Depending on what you are trying to license, prepare to do a lot of homework trying to track down who owns the rights to what you want to use. Let’s say you want to license a well known character from a popular movie. First, you’ll have to find out who owns the rights to this character. It could be the film company itself, or perhaps a company that licensed its use for films. If it’s a specific movie, IMDB can point you in the right direction of who owns the rights, or at least the company responsible for making the film
If you’re looking to license other types of properties such as characters or products, check out Licensing.org. There you can find information on new properties to be licensed, as well as what deals have just been made in the licensing industry. There is even a magazine and online newsletter you can subscribe to that will help keep you up-to-date with all the latest industry buzz.
It is common for a company to use a licensing agency to manage their intellectual property. Licensing agencies act as a liaison between the licensor and the licensee, and are the ones that generally negotiate the contracts to ensure the licensor is getting the best possible exposure. They will be your main contact throughout the term of the license and the ones you’ll have to convince to actually get the license in the first place.
No matter what you’re trying to license, you’ll most likely have to submit a proposal for review. A proposal generally consists of your reasons for licensing this property, what products you intend to create with the license, and how you will market them. Agents usually also want trade references of places you have done business with and even bank references to make sure your company is financially stable. While the exact type of information they desire may vary, all companies want to know one thing: how much money do you intend to make? No company or licensing agent is going to grant you a license without some sort of guarantee. So, one of the things you must submit in your proposal is a guaranteed amount of money that they will make during the course of the license. Plus, they will want a portion of this money upfront, as well as royalties on any money made over and above the guaranteed amount. Please keep in mind that each situation varies depending on the property your licensing and the agency you’re dealing with.