Representing deceased celebrities a fascinating business

Founder, chairman and CEO Mark Roesler is not your average Hollywood management firm executive. What separates his CMG Worldwide from the competition is the status of their clients: Most of them are deceased.

Roesler has posthumously represented some of the most famous celebrities in the world, including Elvis Presley, Norman Rockwell, Sophia Loren and Marlon Brando. These celebrities are just a few of the many legends on the current prestigious client list which include Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Malcolm X, Babe Ruth, Amelia Earhart and more than 300 others. Roesler and his company represent the marketing and legal interests of his various clients, particularly focusing on establishing their rights of publicity, trademark and copyrights.

Have you ever wondered how much money is earned by dead celebrities? According to Forbes Magazine, the 2009 top five dead celebrities earned $780 million. Yves Saint Laurent topped the list at $350 million. Michael Jackson was third at $90 million, beating Elvis in fourth at $55 million.

The task of protecting the rights of deceased superstars is enormous and extremely difficult. Imagine facing the task of having to police a global market on all merchandise with the likeness of Marilyn Monroe.

As an entrepreneur, I find this company fascinating. Most companies poorly expand from their primary niche due to lack of lack of expertise. However, CMG has displayed meticulous proficiency on a wide range of matters related to their clients. Licensing, merchandising, consulting and memorabilia are just a few of the services they offer.

Protecting the rights and identity of the deceased is more difficult than protecting the identity of the living. CMG appears to do a top notch job on such a difficult task. I found it interesting some of the Internet domain name cases CMG has defended.

For example, McDonald’s makes the Big Mac. McDonald’s is a considered as a registered service mark. It is a service conglomerate who does not want you to confuse their name with other restaurants. Big Mac is a hamburger product of McDonald’s, which possesses a trademark. This trademark is unique to the restaurant industry. Each unique trademark has is assigned to a specific category. You can make a fertilizer called the Big Mac without repercussion. Don’t consider it within the restaurant industry.

If you own a trademark, it is your responsibility to police the market against violators with due diligence. Failure to do so could cost you exclusivity. Remember with Xerox, the name became so generically used and synonymous with all and any copying process, the trademark was losing its product association. All the time, money and effort spent building up whatever goodwill they had associated with their name would have been lost because of their lack of diligence. Google is beginning to face the same issue as “googling” becomes synonymous with operating a search engine.

This is relevant to internet domain names. However, when multiple owners of a trademark all vying for the same domain name problems arise. CMG has represented domain name cases for Fred Astaire and Danica Patrick to name a few.

However, the overall top selling of all time, dead and resurrected is Christ.

Approximately 83 million Bibles are distributed globally per year. There are approximately 6 million books about Christianity in print today. Christian/Gospel recorded music sales are almost $500 million annually. Christian Retailing boasts it serves a 4.6 billion dollar industry. Wal-Mart discovered the sales power of Christianity. According to Forbes Magazine, “Wal-Mart’s annual sales from Christian-themed merchandise, which is estimated to already exceed $1 billion annually, is growing at a rapid pace.”

The good news, it all belongs to God, it’s just ours on loan!

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