‘I have never worked for a living,’ he muses.
Like multitudes of others around the globe, when he saw Playboy name and its logo rising, having become the second most recognized in the world after Coca Cola, Carlos Rodriguez promptly and smartly and swiftly registers the name with its logo and the rabbit head in as many categories as he can and then begins to license it to the regional merchandizers. Since he is the one who has legally registered and therefore the owner of the trademarks, Playboy would have no rights to do the same.
Once realizing the potential, Playboy began to file for registrations all around the world – but would be denied their application in the territories and products categories that were already registered by a third party. Most of the third party registrants are small time hustlers. They neither have a know how nor money or infrastructure to do anything with it. While some of them succeed licensing the trademarks they have registered to the legitimate and serious producers and merchandizers and collect royalties, however, they have no support system to nurture the licensees. Everyone knows that the products they are making or distributing are not legit – actually majority of them are of inferior quality. They might as well be the rip-offs from one of the third world countries or in those days maybe the contrabands from Hong Kong and China.
The best hope for the third party registrants is to be able to “sell back” those trademarks to the legitimate creators and the owners. And in the most cases, they succeed. The originators buy them back, if for nothing else, then to keep the inferior and illegitimate products off the shelves. And to preserve their reputation for the highest quality guaranteed by their superior standing within the industry.
We arrive in Córdoba late in the afternoon and allow our host to take us around and show us his empire. At the end of the day, Carlos Rodriguez takes us out for the traditional Argentine barbecue at Asado Don Polidoro. We talk and we listen. The great strategist that Bill is, he doesn’t utter a word about the business until it’s midnight. He is never the first one to blink. Every extra word is said, every expression shown on the face of the other, he studies and analyses them. From the day we spend with Carlos Rodriguez Pons, it’s clear to us that the man isn’t doing well with the Playboy trademarks he has registered. Then the question remains – what would those trademarks by now so abused and downgraded would be worth? How long would it take to legitimize them in the eyes of the producers and the customers? At what cost? Once lost, you can’t build back the reputation just like that – if ever.
As Asado Don Polidoro begins to roll up its doors, Bill strikes a deal with Mr. Playboy of Argentina – which is non-committal as can be and based on multiple “ifs”. Because Bill has already figured out by then that buying back of our trademark in Argentina at the very best would be a losing proposition. And so he lets it be. I am not sure if there was any follow up or not, other than the perfunctory pleasant thank you letter or two.