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Licensing Your Product

Grow by granting others permission to utilize your concept.

If you attended or watched the Olympic Games in Atlanta last summer, you noticed plenty of T-shirts, hats, coffee mugs and other souvenirs bearing the distinctive five-ring logo. The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games sold to the manufacturers of those items the right to use that logo, reaping huge revenues for the Committee and the U.S. teams it supports.

Your business doesn't have to be a gold-medal winner to profit from the sale of your products or ideas. You can trade total control for profit if you have a proprietary technology (such as a software program you developed and to which you own the exclusive rights), or a unique product or process that has value to another company. "You have this little treasure-trove of value, and licensing is the key to unlocking it," comments Richard Harris, an attorney in the Intellectual Property Group at Day, Berry & Howard, a law firm in Hartford, Connecticut. Your one-of-a-kind formula for modeling clay, for instance, or that great idea for a video game, can be your company's treasure-trove.

To find a licensee, consider the niche your product fills in a particular industry, and think about which companies might benefit from holding a license to use it. But before you begin your search to find an appropriate licensee, ask yourself the three questions below, heed our experts' advice, and listen to how a successful start-up tapped into a gold mine of its own.

Stephanie Hainsfurther is a small-business columnist and freelance writer who lives near Hartford, Connecticut.

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This article was originally published in the January 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Licensing Your Product.

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