Licensing Specialist

An Interview With Claudia M. Doege


Claudia M. Doege spent years helping inventors license their creations. She worked as a licensing specialist, and is the founder of The Idea Broker™, a company which has educated and consulted with individuals and organizations about the global licensing of products, ideas and inventions. Her previous clients have successfully placed products with Disney and other organizations, and she was part of the team that licensed over $1 billion in retail sales worldwide of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers® and related products.

Claudia has personally managed more than 500 global licensing agreements for school supplies, sporting goods, food, toys, and more. She is also an award-winning speaker.

Years ago I worked on licensing a product of my own, a game called "Deal a Poem." I discovered that there was not much of a market for a card game based on poetry--no big surprise--but nonetheless I became very interested in the licensing process. So I was happy to have the opportunity to ask Claudia a few questions.

What did you do before you got into product licensing?

I have worked in the legal field for more decades than I care to admit to! I moved back to the LA area because I had some screen writing/television show ideas, and ended up temping at a small production company. Initially, I worked in International Distribution, which is a fancy name for shipping TV and movie products. After several months (about the same time I'd had more than enough of doing bills of lading), a Director of Licensing was hired away from Mattel to launch a product line for this new children's TV show the company was producing, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers®. When she found out about my extensive paralegal background, the new Director got me promoted into her department to handle all of the contracts for all of the merchandise she and our team were licensing all around the world. On hiring me, her initial words were, "You're gonna love licensing!" She was right!

How did you get started as a licensing specialist?

Power Rangers hit with a force and effect no one could have predicted, and all of us ended up shifting our schedules from 45-50 hours per week to 90-100 hours per week! After two years of practically living at work, I left to catch up on sleep...and life! Everyone I subsequently met was interested in the Power Rangers story, and many individuals and small business owners asked me if I would consult with them or teach them how to license and/or pull additional income (revenue streams) out of their ideas or businesses. I spoke at an inventor's convention that was held on the Queen Mary, and a fellow speaker asked me if I was interested in taking my information on the road. Long story short, I ended up spending every weekend for a few years giving seminars at dozens of colleges all across California. Many were sponsored by the local SBDC, the Small Business Development Center, an offshoot of the Small Business Administration, to educate both individuals and small businesses. When I started getting requests from community colleges out-of-state (who couldn't/wouldn't cover travel expenses), I shifted to teaching the information online and consulted with clients via email.

What is the difference between licensing a product or idea, as opposed to selling the invention outright or making and marketing it oneself?

Licensing is the renting of an idea, and the creator gets paid royalties while keeping ownership of the rights to the product or idea. The creator is not limited to the number of markets or manufacturers he/she can license to, and has none of the hassles or overhead that a small business owner does. With selling outright, the creator is paid once and the product or idea is no longer theirs to control or make many from. Many product developers have made a lot of money this way, but others have sold their product or idea to companies who buried them. In other words, the big company bought the idea to make sure it was never produced and wouldn't compete with something that company had on the market (or planned to market). If a product developer loves their own product or idea, and no one else is interested in it, they can manufacture and market it themselves. This is obviously a full-time job and comes with all of the headaches that having your own business entails, such as manufacturing quality, shipping, returns, brick-and-mortar or online (website) overhead and the costs of marketing it themselves or through hiring others to market/sell it for them.

As one who helps people license their product ideas, what do you do for a client?

As I'm now taking my own message to heart and licensing my own products, I rarely consult anymore. When I did consult, I would assist clients with the various stages of the process, from researching the saleability of an item and checking its intellectual property status (whether someone else out there already had a patent, trademark and/or copyright on the same, or a similar item), to doing the paperwork involved if they were doing the process themselves, or helping them find a licensing agent.

How does a licensing specialist get paid--by the hour, per task, or a percentage of the revenue?

Since I was a consultant, I charged per hour or per task. Agents, on the other hand, usually take about 50% of the royalty income that goes to the product creator, but the agent doesn't get paid unless they provide income from the product or idea. You are paying them for their connections and ability to get signed deals in whatever field the product or idea is designed for. If a product or idea works in the education field, such as a design for school supply items, the product creator would find an agent that deals in that industry, not one that works with the automotive field. Agents are in the phonebook or online, but they are most easily found at industry trade shows and in industry trade magazines. So, for toys as an example, you would go to the Toy Fair in New York to find an agent, or check out the Toy Fair's updated annual website to see who will be attending and/or who is advertising there.

What related opportunities are there in this field?

When I worked for the production company, I handled the legal work. In other words, the non-disclosure agreements and all of the contracts and their assignments and amendments. Others on the team actually "sold" the Power Rangers concept to manufacturing companies, getting the companies to license the products. For example, one of my coworkers got six different companies to put Power Rangers' designs on their watches, and they did not overlap each other! One made a Swatch-watch type, another did children's plastic watches, while others did sports watches and even gold and silver watches for adults! The children's watches were also given away in cereal boxes, so the production company not only got licensing fees from the watch manufacturer, but also from the cereal company. If someone is really interested in licensing, loves multiple streams of revenue and how to figure them out (like the watch example), they can become a licensing agent. It helps to have connections in a specific field, but there are a lot of small agents out there.

Once you set up your online-or-offline business, which mostly consists of a computer and business cards (cost is less than $1000 to start this kind of business), people will come out of the woodwork to show you their products. You then take the best, aka the ones you think have a chance at making money, and then get manufacturers to get them to license the ideas. When you are successful, the money comes first to you as an agent, you take your 50%, and then send the (usually) quarterly check to the client. You repeat this over and over and over again! If someone is looking for a steady income, there are job boards on both the LES (Licensing Executives Society--for patents, technical products) and LIMA (Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association--for trademarks/copyrights, artistic and entertainment products) that list entry-level positions, such as a Licensing Coordinator.

Do you enjoy your work?

My old boss was right. I love everything about licensing, which is why I'm now practicing what I preached. I have hundreds of designs out there (which started out with small, but steady income, and have continually grown since), and am now working with television production companies to get my products placed on their shows, along with getting several of my designs on store shelves.

To see what Claudia is doing with her own ideas and products, you can visit her website here:

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Every Way to Make Money | Licensing Specialist Interview: Claudia M. Doege