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Jai Vignesh K – Associate, Intellectual Property Practice


Trademark licensing is a common practice in the business world where brand owners grant permission to other parties to use their trademarks in exchange for a fee or royalty. This allows the licensee to benefit from the brand recognition and reputation of the trademark owner, while providing the trademark owner with an additional revenue stream. However, the process of trademark licensing can be complex and fraught with potential pitfalls for both brand owners and licensees. In this article, we will explore the key considerations that brand owners and licensees should keep in mind when engaging in trademark licensing agreements.

Key Considerations for Brand Owners

Trademark Protection

One of the most important considerations for brand owners when entering into a licensing agreement is protecting their trademark rights. Brand owners should conduct thorough due diligence to ensure that the licensee has the necessary rights to use the trademark in the specific territories and for the specific goods or services covered by the agreement. This may involve conducting clearance searches, reviewing the licensee’s trademark portfolio, and ensuring that the licensee has the appropriate licenses and permissions in place.

Quality Control

Brand owners must also maintain control over the quality of the goods or services that are sold under their trademark. This is particularly important in the context of licensing agreements, where the licensee’s actions can impact the brand’s reputation and goodwill. Brand owners should include provisions in the licensing agreement that allow them to monitor and enforce quality standards and take action if the licensee fails to meet these standards.


Brand owners may also need to consider whether to grant the licensee exclusive rights to use the trademark in a particular territory or market segment. Exclusivity can be a valuable tool for licensees, as it can help protect their investment in building the brand and prevent competitors from entering the market. However, brand owners should carefully weigh the benefits of exclusivity against the potential drawbacks, such as limiting their ability to expand the brand in the future.

Royalties and Fees

Another key consideration for brand owners is determining the appropriate royalty or fee structure for the licensing agreement. This may involve negotiating a flat fee, a percentage of sales, or a combination of both. Brand owners should carefully consider the economic value of their trademark and the potential benefits to the licensee when setting the royalty rate, taking into account factors such as market demand, competition, and the licensee’s marketing and distribution capabilities.

Key Considerations for Licensees

Trademark Rights

Licensees must also conduct due diligence to ensure that they have the legal right to use the brand owner’s trademark in the manner specified in the licensing agreement. This may involve obtaining permission from the trademark owner, conducting clearance searches, and ensuring that the trademark is registered and protected in the relevant territories. Failure to obtain the necessary rights can result in legal action by the brand owner and damage to the licensee’s reputation.

Brand Reputation

Licensees should also consider the impact that the brand owner’s reputation and image can have on their own business. By associating themselves with a well-known and respected brand, licensees can benefit from increased credibility and customer trust. However, licensees must also be mindful of the brand owner’s values and reputation, as any negative publicity or controversy surrounding the brand can reflect poorly on the licensee.

Compliance with Quality Standards

Licensees must adhere to the quality standards set by the brand owner in order to maintain the integrity of the brand and avoid potential legal action. Licensees should establish processes and procedures to ensure that the goods or services sold under the trademark meet the brand owner’s quality standards and specifications. This may involve conducting regular quality control checks, training employees on brand guidelines, and working closely with the brand owner to address any concerns or issues that arise.

Marketing and Promotion

Licensees should also consider the marketing and promotional strategies that will be used to promote the trademarked goods or services. Licensees may be required to adhere to brand guidelines and restrictions set by the brand owner, such as using specific logos, colors, or messaging. Licensees should work closely with the brand owner to develop marketing campaigns that align with the brand’s image and values, while also appealing to the target market.

Case Studies and Examples

One prominent example of a successful trademark licensing agreement is the partnership between Nike and Michael Jordan. Nike’s Air Jordan brand has become one of the most iconic and successful lines of athletic footwear in the world, generating billions of dollars in revenue each year. The partnership between Nike and Michael Jordan has been mutually beneficial, with Nike benefiting from the association with a legendary athlete and Michael Jordan receiving a significant portion of the profits from the sales of Air Jordan products.

Another example of a successful trademark licensing agreement is the collaboration between Starbucks and Nestle. In 2018, Starbucks agreed to grant Nestle the rights to sell and distribute Starbucks-branded coffee and tea products in grocery stores and other retail outlets. This agreement has allowed Starbucks to expand its reach and introduce its products to new markets, while providing Nestle with access to a popular and well-known brand.


Trademark licensing can be a valuable strategy for brand owners to expand their reach and generate additional revenue, while also providing licensees with the opportunity to align themselves with a well-known and trusted brand. By carefully selecting the right licensee, drafting a comprehensive licensing agreement, and monitoring and enforcing the terms of the agreement, brand owners and licensees can establish a successful partnership that benefits both parties. With careful consideration and planning, trademark licensing can be a win-win opportunity for all parties involved.


1. Merges, R., & Duffy, J. (2016). Trademark licensing: A Practical Guide. American Bar Association.

2. Siegel, D. (2018). Trademark Law Handbook: A Practical Guide for Brand Owners and Their Counsel. Wolters Kluwer.

3. Berger, R., & Sichelman, T. (2015). Trademark Licensing and Brand Management. Oxford University Press.

4. Iancu, A. (2019). Licensing Intellectual Property: Law and Applications. Wolters Kluwer.

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