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Lucrative Opportunities in Licensed-Property Printing

(May 2007) posted on Tue May 08, 2007

Licensing is a powerful way to bring fresh, unique, and trendy designs to your garment-printing operation. Read on to learn more about this competitive and rewarding market and how it can help your business grow.


By Lori Leaman

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Licensing really began to take hold in the 1930s with the growing entertainment industry. During this era, Shirley Temple licensed her image to a line of dolls. Disney hired Kay Kamen (the "Father of Modern Licensing") in 1932 and established a licensing program with Mickey Mouse. The Howdy Doody television character became a hot licensed property in the 1940s. The 1950s saw a surge of licensed properties with TV Westerns, Warner Brothers' Looney Toon characters, and United Media's Peanuts and Garfield characters. It was also during the 50s that the Los Angeles Rams became the first sports team to license its logo. The next decade brought the licensed properties of the NFL, Walt Disney's Winnie the Pooh, Warner Brothers' James Bond character, and Jim Henson's Kermit the Frog and Sesame Street characters.

Star Wars was the benchmark licensing program. It was established in 1977 and was the first program to use an active toy license, with Kenner Toys. Licensing in the fashion world also took hold in the 1970s with Pierre Cardin, followed by the Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, and Cherokee brands.

Collegiate-sports licensing came charging onto the scene in 1982 when the University of Pittsburg licensed its logo. Major league sports also stepped up their involvement in licensing programs, especially Major League Baseball.

The corporate sector made its debut in licensing programs with Coca-Cola, whose goal in establishing a licensing program was to protect its trademark. Little did the company know it would generate in excess of $1 billion in retail sales for the Coca-Cola brand.

Licensing programs in the entertainment arena continued to grow with programs for Strawberry Shortcake, Cabbage Patch Kids, ET, and Barney, the purple dinosaur that we all love to hate. The 1990s brought more growth in the entertainment industry with licensing icons Harry Potter, Pokemon, and South Park.


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