Amazon Announces ‘Merch Collab’ Licensing Program at Licensing Expo in Las Vegas

In News by Hannah Johnson13 Comments

Amazon gets into the licensing business: its newly announced Merch Collab program promises to connect brands with designers and manufacturers, with Amazon tracking sales and paying royalties.

At the 2018 Licensing Expo in Las Vegas. Image: Thomas Minkus

By Hannah Johnson | @hannahsjohnson

Today (May 22) in Las Vegas, Licensing Expo has kicked off its annual show with an announcement from Amazon on the launch of its Merch Collab platform, an online licensing and merchandising program that, in the company’s messaging, “makes licensing as easy as ‘Buy now with 1-click.

Nicholas Denissen, a vice president at Amazon, unveiled the new program during the opening keynote at the show, which runs through Thursday (May 24).

Read more about Denissen’s keynote speech remarks in License Global’s coverage of the event.

Of interest to rights holders of all kinds—including book publishers and authors—the program promises to connect brands with pre-approved designers and manufacturers to produce and sell branded merchandise. Amazon tracks sales and pays royalties to both the brand and the designer.

Denissen told the crowd that Merch Collab is now accepting applications from brands, designers, and manufacturers.

The Merch Collab site’s explanatory information reads, “We are interested in all brand types, including major entertainment brands, musicians, consumer products, and social influencers. Note that social influencers must have a minimum of 100,000 followers.”

As of this writing, brands listed as part of the program include Neil deGrasse Tyson, Shane Dawson, Annoying Orange, Rick and Morty, and Impractical Jokers.

Based on the legal terms published on the Merch Collab site, here’s how the program works: Brands upload their content and guidelines to the platform. Designers are then given access to this content and can submit designs based on brand content to Amazon. Once approved both by Amazon and the brand, approved manufacturers use the design to produce merchandise, which is sold through Amazon.

Right now, merchandise categories are primarily t-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts “with other categories launching at a later date,” according to the Merch Collab website.

Intellectual Property, Copyright, Pricing Details

Amazon owns the copyright for all designs created through the Merch Collab program. However, brands can request to purchase the copyright of a design for a fee designated by Amazon of between $5,000 and $100,000.

Royalty fees are calculated, according to the site, “based on your product’s purchase price less Amazon’s costs and fees.”

Of the total royalty payment, two-thirds is paid to the brand and one-third to the designer.

Presumably, this new licensing platform is building on the ongoing success of Merch by Amazon, which allows designers to upload their designs and select products (such as t-shirts) to sell—but requires designers to secure permission on their own for any third-party IP they want to use.

In the FAQ section on the Merch by Amazon website, the first question is about intellectual property and whether designers can use third-party IP in their designs. Amazon states: “You should either have obtained a license or otherwise received permission from any third party whose intellectual property you wish to use with Merch by Amazon.”

With Merch Collab, Amazon is taking the step of providing designers with that permission to used branded content. And while while designers are giving up a percentage of royalty fees to brands under the Merch Collab program, the assumption is that branded merchandise has a higher sales potential to make up for that.

To engage with the Merch Collab program, a Seller Central account is required, per Amazon’s copy: “If you’re a brand owner, Seller Central will be your single portal for working with Amazon. You’ll be able to review and approve designs with Merch Collab, set up your brand through Brand Registry, manage your dedicated store front, run ads on Amazon, and list your own products for sale.”

Pricing, ultimately, is up to Amazon: “You can suggest a list price for your brand that varies from our category defaults. Since Amazon sells your branded merch, we control the final sale price. Brands earn a royalty on each product sold.”

Porter Anderson contributed to this report.

About the Author

Hannah Johnson


Hannah Johnson is the Publisher of Publishing Perspectives. Before joining PP in 2009, she worked as Project Manager at the German Book Office New York.


    1. Glad to hear the news pleases you, Monte. Thanks for reading us and best with your work.


      On Twitter: Porter_Anderson @PubPerspectives

  1. Should be interesting, the application is a whopping 2 questions and it gave me the exact same form regardless of whether I was logged into merch or not.

    It almost seems like its quick form they tossed up and its a prescreening process before they give you the real application.

  2. Are you sure that Amazon keeps all copyrights in the Collab Program? If that is true, it’s a terrible deal for artists and designers who create. Can you specify WHY they would keep all copyrights to an artist’s work? This begs for more detail – if this is true, I would recommend that artists be very wary to get involved in Amazon’s Collab program. Or is this a misprint in your article?

  3. Exactly what I was thinking, Maria. IP is such a valuable asset, why would brand owners simply sign over their copyright to Amazon?

  4. Why would artists sign over their copyright to Amazon! If so, it’s not licensing, it’s a buy out!

  5. Totally awful deal for artist and designers. I hope amazon adjust this in there next phase.

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