Licensing is the process of leasing a legally protected (that is, trademarked or copyrighted) entity – a name, likeness, logo, trademark, graphic design, slogan, signature, character, or a combination of several of these elements. The entity, known as the property or intellectual property, is then used in conjunction with a product. Many major companies and the media consider licensing a significant marketing tool.
Licensing is a marketing and brand extension tool that is widely used by everyone from major corporations to the smallest of small business. Entertainment, sports and fashion are the areas of licensing that are most readily apparent to consumers, but the business reaches into the worlds of corporate brands, art, publishing, colleges and universities and non-profit groups, to name a few.
Licensing can extend a corporate brand into new categories, areas of a store, or into new stores overall. Licensing is a way to move a brand into new businesses without making a major investment in new manufacturing processes, machinery or facilities. In a well-run licensing program, the property owner maintains control over the brand image and how it's portrayed (via the approvals process and other contractual strictures), but eventually reaps the benefit in additional revenue (royalties), but also in exposure in new channels or store aisles.