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Advising Creativity

By Shane Nelson | Oct. 30, 2023

Oct. 30, 2023

Advising Creativity

Crown LLP's founders team up with innovative clients to realize and protect their visions.

From left: Elizabeth Rest and Owen Seitel. (Jana Ašenbrennerová / Special to the Daily Journal)

Intellectual property and entertainment attorneys Owen Seitel and Elizabeth J. Rest don't see themselves as hired guns.

"We don't take clients on piecemeal. We will not do one-off projects or one-off contracts or things like that," Rest explained. "Our goal is to really have a cohesive and holistic relationship with a client, so that we are part of their team -- no matter their level of sophistication. ... Owen and I both want to be part of their team and to work with them."

Seitel and Rest launched San Francisco based Crown LLP in January 2015, looking to handle trademark, copyright, licensing, enforcement and transactional matters for larger corporate and individual clients, including celebrities, artists, musicians, authors, athletes and influencers.

"I've always been a lover of music, film, literature -- all the arts," Seitel said, adding that he takes a great deal of satisfaction from his practice. "You get an insight into the creative process, you get to talk with your clients about their creations, and some of them will even ask for your suggestions on where they should go -- in which direction and so on and so forth -- which is a kick. That's really enjoyable, and it's great to be working as an attorney in an area that's just fun and interesting and constantly changing."

Although there is some overlap in their roles, Seitel said he frequently works with creative types and the creative industries while Rest said her client base is a little more far reaching.

"I always say I'm industry agnostic, and I have clients that are in almost every industry you can possibly imagine," Rest explained, noting she works with retail, food and beverage, cosmetic, publishing, music and confectionery companies. "I have clients who are a mom-and-pop, who are starting a business in their garage, to clients like Thrasher [Magazine] and Republic of Tea and Sunsweet, who are obviously very large companies."

Mentioning her love for the theater as a kid -- while describing herself as the "quintessential drama geek growing up" -- Rest said she's also a longtime fan of the arts and the creative process and grateful for the chance to put that passion into her work.

"I may be working for a company who sells solar panels, which may not be the most objectively creative thing in the world, but I'm working with their creative team, I'm working with their marketing team, and the people who are coming up with the ideas and coming up with the logos," she explained. "Here at Crown, both Owen and I, we always say that our mission is advising creativity because we want to work with the creative team, no matter what type of business they're in."

Sunsweet International General Counsel Mark Leonard has been a Crown LLP client since 2015 -- when he was then in-house counsel for the Jelly Belly Company -- and he said Rest's genuine commitment to working as a part of his team sets her apart.

"I think that's frankly a tip for all outside counsel working with corporate clients -- to learn their businesses better," Leonard said. "She's very good about that because that necessarily informs her on the pain points, on IP enforcement. ... She really wants to know the business and the industry, who the key players are, the competitors. She's great about that."

Rest pointed to her work with the iconic skateboarding publication Thrasher Magazine over more than a decade as an example of how she's helped to guide clients through unexpected transformations.

"Several years ago, something happened in society where all of a sudden streetwear brands were being worn by all the celebrities, and you were seeing Thrasher T-shirts on A-list celebrities walking the red carpet," Rest said. "So all of a sudden, Thrasher found themselves as a retail brand."

Rest said the magazine had trademark protections and previously sold some T-shirts to their almost exclusively skateboarding readership, but the sudden celebrity treatment of their clothing was a game changer.

"We had to really create a worldwide brand strategy in a very short amount of time and that also involved registering their trademarks with various customs agencies all over the world because something like a T-shirt, especially a popular brand T-shirt, is going to be counterfeited," Rest said. "We have since dealt with counterfeit litigation in Italy, China, Spain, Brazil, but we've been very successful in protecting their brand worldwide because of the strategies we adopted once they exploded a couple years ago."

Seitel, meanwhile, mentioned a recent option agreement success he enjoyed along with one of his oldest clients for a film set for release in December.

"I represent a gentleman named Robert Archer Lynn, who's a screenwriter I've worked with for a long, long time doing option agreements. He's very prolific," Seitel said. "And he wrote a screenplay for a film called 'Silent Night,' which was such a good screenplay that it brought John Wu, the [celebrated action] director, back from Hong Kong to the United States after he swore off ever doing Hollywood productions again."

Seitel noted, however, that this isn't an everyday script.

"It's a screenplay and a film that has not one word of dialogue," Seitel said. "Robert actually took this on as a thought experiment initially, asking himself, 'Since action doesn't require dialogue per se, can I write a whole script without dialogue?' Obviously, he did. And the joke that is getting old amongst my family and friends is, 'Who else would represent a screenwriter that wrote a screenplay without any dialogue?'"

The closest recent attempt was J.C. Chandor, who wrote and directed "All Is Lost," starring Robert Redford in 2013. He used 51 words.


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