As Red Nose Day 2017 is fast approaching, various promotional merchandise is starting to appear in the shops - including boxes of PG Tips tea-bags with a free Monkey soft toy. Now Monkey is the very popular and highly recognisable face of PG Tips, having starred in their TV adverts with his sidekick "Al" (Johnny Vegas) since 2006. But the story of how Monkey became associated with PG Tips and Comic Relief is a fascinating example of the value of Intellectual Property, and how it can be traded in business.
Monkey wasn't always associated with PG Tips - he was created back in 2001 by the advertising agency Mother, for ITV Digital, and starred in the ad campaign for their digital terrestrial pay-tv service. He was instantly popular, and a Monkey toy was offered to new subscribers - as they weren't available anywhere else, a lucrative re-sale market sprung up on internet auction sites. Unfortunately, ITV Digital went into administration in 2002 and one of its few remaining assets was the IP in the Monkey character.
Ownership wasn't clear cut however - as a general rule, IP created by an employee belongs to the company but IP created by a consultant remains the property of the consultant unless specifically assigned. A legal dispute ensued between the ITV Digital administrators and the advertising agency Mother and this dispute was only resolved when both parties agreed to donate the IP to Comic Relief. An example of one of the Trademarks can be viewed here.
Monkey is undoubtedly a valuable income earner for Comic Relief, through merchandising of a range of products across a number of NICE classes and licensing to PG Tips, and a great example of how something as simple as a sock puppet backed up with proper IP protection can have a significant financial value.
So, enjoy your cuppa and dig deep for a good cause!