Have you ever noticed that on a shelf crowded with look-alike products, it is the products that bear images of well-known characters and artistic creations that catch the eye? Strip cartoons (Astérix), actors (Charlie Chaplin), pop stars (Britney Spears), sports celebrities (Tiger Woods), famous paintings (Mona Lisa), buildings (Eiffel Tower) and statutes (Manneken Pis), and many other images appear on a whole range of products, such as t–shirts, toys, stationary items, coffee mugs, posters, cereals, canned foods, soft drinks, children’s ready meals, dairy products, confectionery, key chains, etc. This is known in legal jargon as merchandising of intellectual property (IP) rights. Note that in common business parlance, “merchandising” refers to a whole range of allied activities that improve access to and visibility of products, such as designing of shop layout, proper window displays, product groupings, etc. However, this article deals only with the merchandising of IP rights.

The merchandising of IP rights can be a lucrative addition to a business strategy. It is an important way to improve the visibility and appeal of products on display in retail outlets. However, successful merchandising attracts copiers and imitators, who produce counterfeit products. Skillful use of the tools of the IP system helps businesses relying on merchandising to prevent or deal effectively with such violations of IP rights.

Why consider merchandising?

Merchandising of IP rights can be a flourishing business for many enterprises, either to enter new domains of use of their existing IP assets (through licensing out); or to market and/or advertise their products and services by exploiting the popularity of other’s IP (through licensing in).

For enterprises that own IP assets, licensing out3 to potential merchandisers may provide them the following benefits:


Advantages for the licensee, on the other hand, include:


More information here.



Article 27.

Article 27 from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


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Mots-clés: Copyright, Right to reuse pictures, Code of intellectual property