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Warner Bros. has more than 3,700 active licenses for some of the most popular fictional characters in the world, including Bugs Bunny, Batman, the Powerpuff Girls, Superman, and Looney Toons. And that’s not all, folks. Harry Potter has also been a boon for the WB’s licensing line with products like video games, dolls, Lego sets, calendars, mugs, and clothing. IP Law & Business contributor Daphne Eviatar talked to Gary Simon, senior vice president for business and legal affairs at Warner Bros., about the company’s Harry Potter strategy. IP Law & Business: How many lawyers at Warner Bros. work on Harry Potter? Gary Simon: There are six other attorneys in Burbank, [Calif.], London, and Hong Kong who spend some of their time on Harry Potter. Outside counsel are selected by choosing specific attorneys, not firms. We can have as many as four or five outside counsel working on different matters in one country. IPLB: When did Warner Bros. start handling licensing for Harry Potter? What kind of deal does the company have with author J.K. Rowling and her publisher, Scholastic? Simon: In June 1998, Warner Bros. entered into an agreement with J.K. Rowling to produce and distribute motion pictures based upon the books. To date, four books have been published and the fifth [comes out in June]. Warner Bros. has released two movies based upon the first two books. J.K. Rowling also granted Warner Bros. worldwide merchandising rights based upon the books and movies. Warner Bros. was granted other ancillary rights, including home video and DVD distribution rights. IPLB: Are there any limits to the licensing program? Simon: Potential licensees in almost every category gathered at our door to pitch their companies and categories, but the consumer products program was strictly controlled. We [wanted] to ensure that the products were consistent with [Harry Potter's world]. For example, this property could have yielded significant sums for sporting goods, but sports — other than the fictional game of Quidditch — is unrelated to Harry Potter. In addition, [Rowling] reserved certain rights in our agreement. IPLB: How does Warner Bros. choose licensees? Simon: After 20 years in the business, we usually know the most appropriate candidates in each category. We have granted [Harry Potter] licenses to companies such as Electronic Arts, Mattel and Lego. IPLB: How do you ensure that the Harry Potter licenses accurately reflect the image that Warner Bros. (and the author) want to maintain for this brand? Simon: Licensees [must] submit all products, packaging, advertising and promotional materials to us for approval at several stages from development to actual production. We have the right to reapprove any item if it is changed subsequent to initial production. IPLB: How do you handle counterfeiting? Simon: Warner Bros. has its own anti-piracy group charged with fighting counterfeiters and infringers. In-house and outside lawyers and investigators all over the world look for counterfeit and infringing products on a daily basis. Our in-house people are not only out looking for physical examples of counterfeit product, but also for sales of such products on the Internet. Licensees often initially find and report counterfeit products. Our responses have ranged from discussions with the infringers to cease-and-desist letters to filing lawsuits. IPLB: For which aspects of “Harry Potter” do you have trademarks? Simon: Applications have been filed (and marks issued) in scores of countries in numerous classes for, among others, Harry Potter, the titles of each of the books, the names of the key characters in each book, and most of the unique fictional names in the books. IPLB: What kinds of problems arise with trademark infringement? Simon: An interesting element of the trademark registration program relates to the many made-up names in the books, including Quidditch, Gryffindor and Slytherin. We ran into a few registrants who claimed they had prior rights, and, of course, they did not. Since these books were published in many languages, issues arose over protection of the translated versions of these made-up names. IPLB: Have you read the books? Simon: I have read all four books, and of course seen both movies. Although I have good friends at Scholastic, [Potter's publisher], they would never let me see a book before it is published. I intend to read [the fifth book] when it comes out.

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