Recently recognized in Variety's Dealmakers Impact Report 2021, Jim Nelson, a co-chair of Venable's Technology, Media, and Commercial (TMC) Group, has facilitated numerous deals and strategic alliances that leverage the commercial uses of intellectual property and other intangible assets. In this recent conversation, Jim discusses some of his work in the entertainment field and other industries, and why his knowledge of the financial impacts of intangible asset classes is keeping him and his team very busy.
Can you describe the types of deals you and your team typically work on?
Jim: Whether my team is working with companies in media and entertainment, technology, or the life sciences, much of the work they do is centered around intellectual property. For example, in the media and entertainment space, particularly here in Venable's Los Angeles office, we do a lot of work with clients in the entertainment business, including actors, musicians, influencers, and athletes, who are looking to boost their brand value through influencer deals, endorsements, and so on. So, we help facilitate licensing deals, distribution deals, or joint ventures that involve moving intellectual property assets around, managing those assets through trademark and patent protection, and controlling the use of name, image, and likeness.
How are deals that involve intellectual property assets different from, say, a real estate transaction?
In truth, my team – the TMC Group – is not that different from a real estate transactions team, except that a real estate attorney will be focused on real property – financing it, buying it, selling it, or building it, while we do pretty much the same, but just with intangible property. The difference is that the assets we work with are generally those protected by property rights, such as patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, rights to privacy, rights to publicity, and so on. But regardless of the type of asset, the fundamentals of deal making are always the same. The key to a successful outcome is tying in those fundamentals with a deep domain knowledge of the intellectual property or other class of assets and services involved.
You and your team are known for your understanding of and skill in manipulating these types of asset classes. Can you give an example of where you put this skill to use?
Jim: An interesting example recently came up in a transaction we are working on that is related to a 1960s game show. We were representing the granddaughter of one of the creators of the show, who wanted to sell the show, which has been on air for many years. We helped advise on the treatment of the various intangible assets to ensure a smooth auction and transaction. We assessed what the actual underlying intellectual property rights were and the extent to which they could be protected and transacted.
Intellectual property is a rapidly expanding field. What kind of trends are you seeing, and how might they affect the future of your work?
Jim: One area that is rapidly evolving is the commercialization of data as an intellectual property asset. Whether it is gathered with cutting-edge digital technologies in industrial applications, to reveal consumer purchasing habits, or through drug testing and research, the pool of available data is growing alongside the computing power used to leverage that data. So those drivers will continue to provide more commercial opportunities to monetize and manage intangible assets and their associated rights. Ultimately, the more important trend for people like us who work in this area is that the percentage of the economy that is represented by intangible assets is growing exponentially. And so, anyone who can manipulate those asset classes, and who can understand the financial impacts associated with them, is going to be kept very busy.
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