Chris Specce on licensing


Work for Hire

  • herman miller gave them a brief and they had a design fee
  • they worked with their design and engineering team with a solution that they had already developed
  • the paid them upfront and they owned the results of it
  • this is a different model from licencing



  • licensing is a form of IP exploitation
  • relationship between licensor and licensee
  • the licensor maintatins the intellectual property but gives the licensee exclusive use of it
  • as the licensee makes money off it the lincensor gets a cut of the profit
  • certain companies are open to licensing deals
  • consignment is a different model where you have a good to sell and then a retail partner
  • licensing is a way to focus your time the way you want to, i.e. design
  • more risk than work-for-hire but more proactive and less risk than trying to produce and market the thing yourself


Who is a licensing partner?

  • different ways you can think about it
  • it happens in a lot of different industries (e.g. movies often license songs)
  • it’s a company that produces and sells the product
  • but it might not be a company that manufactures, they might just market and hand off the production to somehone else
  • a lot of brands are also licensed out to producers (e.g. Tommy Hilfiger)



  • compensation works through royalties
  • a percentage of each sale
  • in his industry you can expect less than 8% royalty on wholesale
  • it’s small because the company making the investment is taking on a lot of risk
  • ideas are cheap; implementation is expensive


The Manila Notebook

  • likes doing furniture and product work that he feels personally connected to and invested in
  • as a designer it’s tough to earn a living from one product
  • in addition to work he’s passionate about, he has a side hobby of things he’s not connected to but finds to be a fun challenge
  • began working on this series of notebooks
  • tried to spend as little time as possible on it (really want to expedite the process)
  • just wants to get it out there and see if it stuck or not
  • started in september of 2010 with silly brainstorming
  • all these ideas are working toward this pitch model so they could go to trade shows
  • created this formula of pun-like objects (e.g. tap measure shaped like a roll of tape)
  • wanted to just get things to the point that they could have a conversation around it
  • January 2011 was a trade show at the Jacob Javitz center in new york
  • presented several ideas


Is there any fear about stealing idea?

  • there is a little bit but they’ve developed enough of a relationship with these companies so they feel like they can trust them
  • the companies asked for specs after the trade show (March 2011)
  • the specs weren’t precise since the the manufacturers are more or less going to do what works for them so they’re just trying to get the specs in the ballpark
  • prefers that in agreements with these companies his name isn’t associated with the product
  • doesn’t want his identity being so bound up in the work
  • the manila notebook idea isn’t really patentable so it’s mostly based on trust more than anything
  • in general trust is still stronger than a contract since contracts are only as good as one’s ability to enforce them


Other than going to the gift fair, are there other ways to approach companies?

  • email is problematic because these companies are already getting tons of emails and it’s a really hard way to get noticed
  • it’s better if you have an in

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