As commercial and legal head for Granada Ventures, Mark Hurry has become a search-and-destroy specialist for unlicensed products. Joanne Harris investigates
These days, the merchandise associated with major films and TV programmes can be as valuable as the product itself. Whenever a new series or a blockbuster movie is released, the shops are soon full of T-shirts, posters, stationery or plastic figures of the characters. But can you tell which of the products are licensed and which are not?
As head of commercial and legal affairs for ITV’s merchandise, licensing and publishing division Granada Ventures, it is Mark Hurry’s job to first acquire and then protect licences for a vast range of brands.
Granada Ventures was formed just a year and a half ago following the merger of Granada and Carlton. Hurry has been in charge of legal affairs for around a year. At present the company’s legal team is small, consisting of just two lawyers, but expansion is likely as the portfolio of brands it manages grows.
Brand licences owned by Granada Ventures include vintage children’s show Thunderbirds, ITV hits I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here and Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Take Away, and football clubs Arsenal and Liverpool. Granada Ventures also runs a video and DVD catalogue which includes classic films such as The Shawshank Redemption and Bugsy Malone.
“My main function on a day-to-day basis,” says Hurry, “is to provide full legal and business support for Granada Ventures.” That means doing the licensing and merchandising agreements for the different brands the company owns and acquiring new video and book titles. “A lot of those are bespoke agreements,” Hurry says. “I’m also looking after the litigation and pre-litigation side of things across the spectrum.”
Hurry came to his current role down a winding route which would not suit every lawyer. “I’ve had a weird career progression,” he admits. “What it’s given me is an experience which wouldn’t have been gained from staying in-house.”
Hurry worked in-house at Polygram after qualifying before moving into private practice. Stints at media specialists Mishcon de Reya and Hamlins followed, after which he returned to an in-house role with Fuji International Productions.
While at Fuji, Hurry was involved in producing a Spice Girls concert in Istanbul. He went on to spend five years as a freelancer producing concerts for Sky. But then the chance came to move back in-house at Granada Ventures, and Hurry took it.
He maintains the contacts he built during his entertainment years, with one of his main legal advisers being Hamlins. He has also instructed The Simkins Partnership and SJ Berwin for litigation and uses Linklaters on trademark matters. All the firms Hurry instructs are also on the main ITV panel, but he adds: “Then we’d assess the expertise and skills – but the panel’s there for a reason.”
Hurry reports to the director of business affairs at distribution company Granada International, Helen Fox-Gladwell. He also has a dotted reporting line to Kyla Mullins, head of legal for ITV.
The most recent licensing agreement Hurry carried out was the acquisition of the Little Britain brand. The hit comedy series, penned and performed by Matt Lucas and David Walliams, is screened on the BBC but the rights were owned by the two performers themselves. Hurry worked closely with the pair and their agent in constructing the deal, instructing Hamlins for external advice.
The next step after acquiring the brand was to stop the sale of unlicensed merchandise. Several retailers were selling products such as T-shirts without a licence, so Hurry bombarded them with cease-and-desist letters. Granada Ventures, Hurry says, takes the question of protecting its brands very seriously. “We’ve been using cease-and-desist letters with companies who are exploiting the brand without an official licence,” he says. “We’ll take them all the way down the legal process. We’ll sue if necessary.”
Hurry calls Granada Ventures’ IP policy “police, enforce and protect”, a scheme that includes clients working closely with Hurry and his team. “We work hand-in-hand together to clean up the market,” he says, describing how, in the case of Little Britain, the search was on to find the source of the unlicensed merchandise.
Aside from licensing-related matters, Hurry is also involved in any company acquisitions Granada Ventures makes going forward. “There are a few companies out there which we’d look at to work with which are complementary to us,” he says.
He will also work on expanding the Granada Ventures stable. One new area is ’partworks’ (magazines that come in a series, often with films or models attached).
Over the next year, Granada Ventures is expecting to be even busier than it has been since its foundation. Hurry and his fledgling team will be an integral part of that development.
Head of commercial and legal affairs
|Turnover||Unavailable, as the company was only incorporated in July 2004|
|Head of commercial and legal affairs||Mark Hurry|
|Reporting to||Granada International director of business affairs Helen Fox-Gladwell; dotted reporting line to ITV general counsel Kyla Mullins|
|Main law firms||Hamlins, The Simkins Partnership and SJ Berwin for litigation and Linklaters for trademarks|