On May 23, 2020, the HKU SPACE Executive Academy invited me to give a seminar for business executives from the cultural and creative industries in China and Hong Kong. The topics are “Commercialization Strategy of IP in Entertainment Industry” and “Intellectual Property Strategy of Entertainment Industry”.
Below are some highlights of the talk.
The “IP” discussed in the pan-entertainment industry and the major cultural and creative industries generally refers to movies, games, animations, literature, and other products that provide entertainment to the public. They are not exactly same to the concept of “IP” in the legal context.
泛娱乐业以及大文创行业所谈论的IP通常是指影视剧、游戏、动画、文学等为公众提供消遣的产品,与法学语境下的 “IP” 概念并不相同。
The traditional IP laws mainly include trademark law, copyright law, anti-unfair competition law, etc. The rights and the “IP” in the concept of the entertainment industry are not in a one-to-one correspondence: this is often unclear by the industry.
传统的IP法律主要包括商标法、著作权法、反不正当竞争法等,其中的权利与娱乐业概念中的 “IP” 并非一一对应的关系:这一点,业界常常没弄清楚。以为他们脑海中的每种 IP 都一定有现成的、查查法条就够了的保护方案。

IP in the sense of Copyright Law includes film and television dramas, animation, games, crosstalk, novels, stage design, etc. In the Trademark Law and Anti-Unfair Competition Law, IP contains logos, unique names of well-known products, trade secrets, unique decorations, etc. The Patent Law seems to be far away from the entertainment industry, but certain patent achievements will have a direct or indirect impact on the entertainment industry.

In the entertainment industry, there are some “IPs” that have not been explicitly protected by law. The most important ones include TV program formats and live sports events. For program producers, the law is just one of the factors to be considered. They need to maximize legal protection and also minimize infringement risks.   It is also necessary to understanding their potential licensees and local ecology.

Take “The Voice of China” as an example, it was a program licensed by Talpa, and aired by Zhejiang TV in 2012, with great success in the first three seasons. However, starting in 2016, Talpa wanted to change licensee to another Chinese company, Tangde Film. Thereafter, the three parties fell into a completed legal war.
以《中国好声音》为例,2012年开始在浙江卫视播出,前三季获得了巨大成功。但从2016年开始,该节目模式的持有人荷兰Talpa公司与中国的被许可人上海灿星公司,以及另外一个被许可人唐德影视陷入转椅一般的 “涡轮战” 。

In the course of the tripartite bondage, due to the impact of new competitive programs, the market share of “The Voice of China” gradually declined. In 2018, the three parties finally reached a settlement, Canxing, the first licensee, continued to use the Chinese name of “The Voice of China”.  Tangde Film terminated the license agreement with Talpa. Talpa withdrew from the Chinese market.

It can be seen from this case that, as an introducer or producer of a program, when entering a new market, the original format creator must select local partners/licensees very carefully. At the same time, potential licensees must also continuously improve their capabilities in not only the production of good programs but also mobilizing various resources.

During the investigation of the licensee, a licensor must first consider its market power, secondly analyze the potential competitors, and finally examine whether the licensee has the ability to localize the programming model.

Secondly, the protection of IP cannot rely on a single legal method but must adopt a multiple rights solution. For example, in a TV format, its stage design, scripts, and animations are subject to copyright protection; its logos, slogans, iconic actions, etc. are subject to trademark protection; while the overall style and look (feel) of the program may be subject to protection of the Unfair Competition Law.
其次,娱乐业IP都无法套用单一的法律手段,而要采用多元权利的解决方案。例如在节目模式中,舞台设计、脚本、动画属于版权保护的对象;logo、标语、标志性的动作等属于商标权保护的对象;而节目的总体风格和装潢(look and feel)则可能属于《反不正当竞争法》保护的对象。

Thirdly, management is more important than legal actions. One not only needs to sign an agreement but also needs to register rights, set up a confidentiality protection program, consider brand publicity. It shall also consider making the creation team exclusive, and so on. A traceable management process can ensure the clarity of IP ownership and reduce subsequent disputes.

It is also necessary to rationally allocate resources. Choose a suitable local partner, build a sound brand moat, and make full use of non-market factors to form a protection for yourself.

In this context, the IAIAIA approach shall be introduced in building up a robust IP strategy. First, identify the issues and the actors who will influence the issue;  that is the first “I” = Issue pain points, and A = Actors (stakeholders). Second, you must identify the interest of each actor, and confirm the arena with which they can cooperate. Then you will have a base to establish a cooperative and competitive relationship, which is the second set of “IA”, I = Interest, A = Arena. Afterward, you may then collaborate with actors to share information, and finally, mobilize all resources (assets) to address the issues and to reach your aim – this forms the third set of “IA”.
其中,超越市场战略(IAIAIA方法论)便是企业知识产权战略中非常重要的方法论之一。这一理论指出,首先要找到痛点和行动者(竞争者),即I = Issue 痛点,A = Actors 行动者 (利益相关者)。其次要找到这些行动者的利益点,并确认与其可以合作的领域,建立一种既合作又竞争的关系,即I = Interest 利益,A = Arena 合作领域。然后才能与这些利益相关者共享信息,最后调动所有资源解决痛点。



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