By Jeremy M. Evans ‘11
New Lawyers Division, Board of Directors, SDCBA CLE Co-Chair
On Thursday, August 22, 2013, the New Lawyers Division (NLD) and the Entertainment and Sports Law (ESL) Section of the San Diego County Bar Association (SDCBA) hosted a continuing legal education (CLE) panel on “Licensing: Protection of Entertainment and Sports Law Assets” at the SDCBA Bar Center. The event was well-attended by an engaged audience and included a webcast of listeners as well.
Eric Eastham of Mintz Levin, Co-Chair of the ESL section of the SDCBA and a San Diego Daily Transcript 2012 Outstanding Young Attorney, introduced each of the panelists. Eastman assisted NLD Board of Director and CLE Co-Chair Jeremy Evans ’11, the organizer of the event, in putting the program together. Thomas Jefferson Alumna Amanda Thompson ’07 also aided with logistics for the panel.
Andrew Skale of Mintz Levin, a 2013 San Diego Super Lawyer, started off with a discussion on the foundation of intellectual property and ways to protect a client’s image proactively and after infringement has occurred. Skale added that Junior Seau’s estate is one of the firm's clients, which involves issues surrounding post-mortem rights in California. Winnie the Pooh is also a client of Mintz Levin. Skale mentioned that there is no such thing as a “poor man’s copyright” and advised that clients and lawyers should be active in monitoring and protecting their client’s images and work by simply handling the easy and relatively inexpensive registration process of trademarks and copyrights. Skale closed by stating that the industry is small and stressed the importance of maintaining credibility and professionalism as “you will likely work with the same folks again.”
Thomas Jefferson alumna Lacy J Lodes ‘08 of LacyJLaw presented after Andrew Skale. Lodes manages a voluminous IP portfolio. Lodes began with some practical examples, specifically a story about Paris Hilton and her image on a Hallmark Card that was not approved for licensing (permission to use) prior to the card being sent out to the public for purchase. Lodes added that Hilton made a small fortune in a rights of publicity recovery showing how an image can be litigated and protected, with a profit to show from it. In addition to other comments, Lodes gave some practical advice. When she begins a client matter, she first looks at the law and compares what one state does as compared to another. She says that California is far ahead of other states in protecting a person’s image, but noted that there are no rights of publicity laws on the books in any state.
Jonathan Hadaya of Autosport Development, LLC spoke next. Hadaya is the Co-Chair of the ESL Section of the SDCBA and represents race car drivers. Hadaya spoke on the financial aspects of licensing and added that licensing is not only a great way to actively protect your client’s image, but also a way to make money in endorsement and sponsorship deals. He provided numerous examples of how licensing can cut across different industries and tie products and multiple clients together. One question he received from the audience was whether there is a conflict of interest when representing clients (i.e., an athlete for example), while creating and developing relationships with businesses and companies as sponsors. Jonathan quickly quipped that there is not a conflict because you are representing one client (the athlete), while advocating for that client with a non-client business or company. He closed by saying that companies and athletes benefit each other and that it is a very lucrative industry.
TJSL alumnus Emile Nicolaou ’06, Senior Director of Business & Legal Affairs at Playboy Plus Entertainment, Inc., closed the presentation. Prior to law school, Nicolaou worked with the NFL, Pacific-10 Conference (now PAC-12) and EA Sports, organizing and executing national sports tournaments. Nicolaou spoke in depth about “Fair Use” exceptions to copyrighted and protected images and things. He gave some practical examples of fair use exceptions and discussed what each exception meant. He encouraged the audience to research the exceptions, but added that it would be better to just ask for a license and pay for it or offer a credit in a book or movie rather than to risk getting sued when banking on an exception.
Overall, the event was a terrific learning experience.