Two years ago, just before the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I hypothesized that Star Wars might be the most valuable intellectual property ever created, given all that it has spawned (movies, TV, books, licensing, toys, apparel, and much more) and the rich and deep trademark portfolio. This weekend, another Star Wars installment will be released, Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
A recent very good blog post by David Clark (@law_DLC) entitled Those *were* the droids I was looking for! Star Wars and its universe of IP rights examines this issue in more depth and reaches the same conclusion. This has inspired me to revisit my original post and think more about who could challenge Star Wars, including some David’s post discusses and some it does not:
- Mickey Mouse? A long duration, for sure. Theme parks, TV, film, books, and more spun off from the original character. But I don’t think it has the same range and depth as the Star Wars universe, and much of its popularity was before the internet age, which has allowed for a greater impact by top brands today.
- The Lion King? Did you know the Broadway show has grossed more dollars than all the Star Wars movies combined? But the spin offs (tours, TV, album, toys) are not as rich as Star Wars.
- Harry Potter? This series of books and films and more has potential to match Star Wars, but Star Wars has a generational advantage since it spans more decades.
- The original microprocessor chip? Patent rights do not last forever, and more competition. The chip certainly led to a lot of value, but for a lot of people, not just the inventor.
- The internet “http” protocol? The protocol led to the explosion of the internet as a form of communication, the browser and the web. But what IP protection was available? And most of the financial value was realized by others, not the inventor.
- iPhone? The iPhone has certainly led to a lot of IP and a lot of money for Apple in sales and stock value. But other than as a smartphone and apps, the impact has not crossed platforms. Also, the lifespan, to date, is relatively short since the first iPhone was released 10 years ago.
- Super Bowl? A tremendous and valuable event. But held only one day a year. No doubt the commercial spawn tremendous value for a lot of brands as well. But again the impact is limited given one stream of delivery (TV) and one day of the year.
- Amazon? This is big one: Amazon brand and business has led to developments in one click shopping, Prime, streaming, cloud hosting, and more. Amazon may be the closest competitor to Star Wars. But most of the developments are protected by patent and will not belong exclusively to Amazon for generations.
- Coca-Cola? With protection via trade secret for the Coke formula and brand known worldwide for decades, Coca-Cola is also a significant threat. But it does not have the diverse portfolio that Star Wars has.
Star Wars’ financial and cultural impact matches or exceeds any on the above list, in my opinion. I mean, which other contender can claim a list of spoof roller derby names?
Bottom line: this is a bar room discussion. To calculate accurately the total value of these things is nearly impossible. But it sure is fun to think about! Did I get it wrong or miss a strong contender? Leave a comment with your opinion.
- My favorite logos
- THE FORCE AWAKENS: How movies became big trademark business
- Anatomy of a great entertainment trademark portfolio: STAR TREK
Dear Erik: I thought I would mention Jurassic Park, the Superman/Batman series, and the LEGO empire, as possible contenders (but it is a well-known fact that Star Wars has eclipsed everyone so far)!!
Thanks for this fun article. —Patty
Thanks for the suggestions! LEGO is certainly a valuable one, and I have been impressed by its ability to reinvent and stay relevant for today’s youth