What’s the difference between character licensing and technology licensing?

I attended a trading show specializing in character and brand licensing, Licensing Japan, which was held in Tokyo on April 4th to 6th 2018. Japanese people of all ages love characters of TV animations, movies, games and the like. It’s said that some people seek healing through such characters. The market size of Japanese domestic character goods is around 1.6 trillion JPY (approximately 16 billion dollars). In the Japanese market, Japan-origin characters such as pikachu and precure are strong, as expected, but recently the ratio of overseas characters is getting bigger.

In character licensing, in many cases, a company who wish to develop its products using a particular character applies for a license with the owner or the agent of the character. Then, the owner or agent generally checks the following key points.

  • Is it a plus for the character?
  • Product planning ability and sales capabilities of the applicant
  • Passion for the character

The business environment looks quite different from the patent (technology) licensing which I’m often involved. It may be due to the following characteristics of character licensing business.

  • Characters themselves have power to attract customers, and can impact directly on sales of the products with the characters.
  • If someone try to use characters without permission, you will be able to find the fact of the use in many cases.

However, even in technology (patent) licensing, if it is an essential technology to develop a particular product a company wants to develop, the company may be willing to pay the licensing fee. Also, as described before, there are many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) which are looking for seed technologies to develop their own new products. From these aspects, technology marketing which appropriately presents the value and the advantages of a particular technology for potential licensees may be more important.

By the way, when you want to use a particular character for your products or services, you may go to a lot of trouble to find the contact. For your reference, here is a website to find the contact – Japan content catalog – JACC Search.