The Revival of “Baby Phat” Teaches Us How To Make Money With Trademarks

Updated: Jun 17, 2019

It feels like the 99s and 00s again because Baby Phat is back with a capsule collection in collaboration with fast fashion retail giant, Forever 21. 




Fashion Mogul, Kimora Lee Simmons started Baby Phat in 1998 and it quickly became one of the most recognizable female urban streetwear brands. It was a subsidiary of her ex husband’s company, Phat Fashions, LLC.

In 2004, a New York-based enterprise named Kellwood Company acquired Phat Fashions, LLC for $140 million and this included the acquisition of Baby Phat as well. One of the most important aspects of this transaction was the transfer of intellectual property rights. Kimora continued to work as the President and Creative Director of Baby Phat but, she was merely an employee as she no longer owned the business or its intellectual property. In 2010, Kimora’s working relationship with Kellwood Company seemingly soured and she was relieved of her duties.


FAST FORWARD: In March 2019, Kimora Lee Simmons announced that she re-acquired Baby Phat. The most important aspect of this transaction was Kimora re-gaining ownership of the company’s intellectual property, particularly - the trademark ownership rights to the Baby Phat brand name and logo. 


trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party‘s from those of their competitors. Generally, trademark registration is encouraged because it gives you the exclusive right to own your trademark in your industry. In Kimora’s case, she owns the trademark for the term “Baby Phat” for clothing, perfume, shoes, etc and therefore, no other brand can use this name for clothing, perfume, shoes and all the other products for which she may have registered the mark.


Trademarks can also serve as major income generators and many of the world’s most famous trademarks are worth billions. Your intellectual property is your money maker and as a mogul, Kimora Lee Simmons understands that ownership of her intellectual property is the gateway to a successful and profitable brand revival. 


There are two major ways to monetize your intellectual property:


1) Incorporate your IP into your goods and services


For example: Baby Phat has two major trademarks: its brand name and its logo. This is how the brand is identified and distinguished in the marketplace. When you see the glittery slender cat on the hangtag of a jumpsuit, you will know that this jumpsuit is from “Baby Phat” and not, Fashion Nova. 


2) Licensing


This is a practice whereby an intellectual property (“IP”) owner (“the licensor”) grants permission to another (“the licensee”) to use that intellectual property on mutually agreed terms and conditions in exchange for payment. Please note: the keyword here is: USE. The IP owners grant permission to USE and NOT own the trademark(s). The IP owner retains ownership. 


According to Inc.com, “licensing is a $270 billion-plus industry that provides brands an additional stream of revenue -- in some cases serves as the primary income.”

While I cannot confirm this happened in the Baby Phat x Forever 21 deal specifically, fashion brand collaborations are usually made possible by one brand licensing their intellectual property to another. In this instance, it seems as if Kimora Lee Simmons may have granted Forever 21 a license to use the Baby Phat brand name and logo to facilitate their collaboration. Under these agreements, the licensor usually remains in control of the nature and quality of the goods sold in association with the trademark.


Licensing deals can be beneficial in numerous ways. Think about it: - Baby Phat hasn’t been visible in years and times have changed, so Kimora could be using this collaboration to test the market in order to determine the relevance of the brand. She will also have the opportunity to do so through a brand that has a strong target market in her industry. Best of all, she may not have to worry about manufacturing because Forever 21 may agree to produce the collection under their licensing agreement.


While I do not know the exact financial compensation structure of Kimora’s deal with Forever 21, a licensor may generally create two income streams in a licensing agreement: 1) an initial flat- fee to license the trademark(s) and 2) an on-going royalty, which could be a percentage of the sale price of each product sold. 


Kimora made a brilliant move when she made the decision to re-acquire a brand in which she invested lots of time, energy and money. This decision allowed her to re-gain ownership of the intellectual property so that she can monetize its value.


Some other celebrities have done brand collaborations with well-known companies while allowing those companies to OWN the rights to their brand name or a stylized logo containing their brand name. For example, Fashion Nova, Inc is the trademark applicant of a “Cardi B” stylized text-based logo that is being used in connection with the Cardi B x Fashion Nova collection. 


On the other hand, Kimora Lee Simmons owns her intellectual property and she has monetized it through a licensing deal which ensures that she retains ownership. 


Listen up, boss! You don’t have to be a super famous mogul to monetize your intellectual property. If you have an IP portfolio and great brand value, whether locally, regionally, nationally or in a niche market- you may be able to seek out licensing deals that will allow you to monetize your IP

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