Marci Ballard was recently quoted in an article in The American Lawyer on September 28, 2017, regarding the firm’s work on behalf of its client, Playboy. Huge Hefner, who recently died, worked with a series of law firms, including Venable, that have represented his company over the years.
Ballard has handled global trademark enforcement for Playboy and some of Hefner's marks since 2011 and picked up the representation after Hefner had taken a step back from the company's day-to-day operations. Ballard said it was easy to appreciate Hefner's business acumen and his early vision to expand the Playboy brand – along with its trademark bunny head icon – beyond the original magazine.
"Playboy has a huge trademark portfolio," Ballard said. "Since I've taken it over I've seen reports that it's one of the 10 most recognizable brands in the world, along with [the likes of] Coca-Cola. It's an honor to represent such a famous brand, and it's been an incredible experience for me and for Venable."
Ballard also noted that Hefner had a strategy to take the Playboy brand international long ago, "before many western companies were." That included going to China more than two decades ago, where even though censorship kept the magazine off the shelves in the country, the company carved out a market by licensing its bunny logo for use on apparel, among other products.
Outside the United States, Ballard said, the brand is often associated more with the luxury lifestyle Hefner embodied and the notion of the "good life" than it is with nude models. "China didn't even have the magazine," Ballard said. "But what they do like is bunnies and rabbits."