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IP comes up with a novel approach to make money
Last Updated: 2017-09-08 08:38 | China Daily
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Intellectual property is big business for a new breed of entrepreneurs in China desperate to cash in on this latest trend.

Wang He, founder of Sense Media in Shanghai, specializes in IP commercial rights and acquisitions.

He scans the region and the rest of the world looking for the next "must have" service.

"Chinese people aren't satisfied with just having coffee at Starbucks anymore," Wang said. "They need to have fun and find something fresh.

"The popularity of social networks is stimulating them to show that they're at the front of the city's newest and funniest stuff," Wang added. "Products themed with hit IPs do well."

This Chinese-style trend was pioneered by Tencent Holdings Ltd when it repackaged original content for other sectors, such as turning online novels into films and games before using the characters to later sell products.

But Wang has added an extra twist by going for game-changing IP commercial rights for cutting-edge projects. His company has been seeking to scour "unclaimed treasuries" and commercialize it in a more creative way.

One unclaimed treasure happened to be "Le Petit Chef" from Skullmapping, an artistic company run by Filip Sterckx and Antoon Verbeeck in Belgium.

Quite simply, "Le Petit Chef" is a 3D performance projected onto empty dinner plates as customers wait for their meals.

It features a comical animation of a tiny chef stepping out of a manhole before preparing food. Antics abound, as the microscopic culinary master converts plates into virtual grills, cuts down broccoli trees, digs up fresh digital potatoes and tackles a dastardly fly.

In Hong Kong as well as Shanghai, "Le Petit Chef" has proved a sensation with Wang signing up over 25 restaurants. He has also pocketed a substantial franchise fee, although he declined to disclose detailed financial figures.

Such integration into the catering industry has been better received than what Wang had expected. Its first trial in a restaurant in Shanghai was overbooked for two months.

Online reviews from customers have helped turn the promotion into a spectacular success story. Annual revenue this year from IP is expected to reach HK$8 million ($1.02 million) to HK$10 million, according to Wang.

His company, Sense Media, was bought by DX.com, a Hong Kong-listed company engaged in cross-border e-commerce this year.

Members of his research team used to work for renowned auction houses and they spend their time actively looking for potential IP rights, which would appeal to young consumers.

Sense Media has also signed up around 40 artists globally to produce a stream of original content to fuel a market that is expanding

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that China's average per capita disposable income jumped 8.8 percent to 12,932 yuan ($1,913) in the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2016.

This exceeded the national GDP growth rate of 6.9 percent for the same period.

But many fear the IP bubble might be about to burst. Even Wang warned of the challenges ahead when he cited the example of the smash hit mobile game Candy Crush. He disclosed that a Taiwan-based company has acquired the franchise license from the game's developer King Digital Entertainment for millions of Hong Kong dollars. But so far the only product it has spun off has been children's candy and the agreement expires in two years.

Bubble frenzy has also gripped the film industry, according to Li Lei, vice-president of Filmko Ltd, a mainland movie production company.

"When it comes to IP adaption of film productions, there are buyers simply chasing works with huge fan bases without a grasp what the essence of the story is," Li said.

"Many IP-inspired films fail or achieve poor box office results," Li added. "A good IP should always be good content and IP buyers should know it ultimately to make the fullest of it."

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