August 22, 2012

A&E Guide: Spotlight on Kyle Citrynell

Kyle Citrynell is an arts and entertainment intellectual property (IP) attorney. Known as “Kyle Anne” below the Mason-Dixon line and “Kyle” above it, Citrynell is an expert on the law for people in the creative arts, including visual artists, media and performers.

IP law has been called “the law of ideas,” something once considered difficult to define. After all, we have dozens of ideas a day; how it is possible to defend them? That’s where copyrights, trademarks and contracts come in.

Citrynell started working in IP law when it — and she — was young, after receiving her law degree from Duke University in 1980. “I took one copyright class at Duke and taught myself the rest,” she says.

She moved to Frankfort to work for the Kentucky Arts Commission (now the Kentucky Arts Council). Her job was to set up the Professional Services to the Arts pilot program.

“Thirty years ago when I started practicing law, the top 100 Fortune 500 companies took a raw material out of the ground and turned it into tangible properties,” Citrynell says. “Sixty-eight out of the top 100 companies now make or sell intangible properties, products or services.”

How things have changed. Today she’s a founding member of Seiller Waterman LLC and heads their five-member IP group.

“IP has been a growth industry,” she says. “I look at creative industries as having common legal issues. Industries recognized the need for IP, (that) bundle of rights have values attached. Branding has (been a) factor, (as well as) franchising and celebrity as industry.”

When first meeting with clients, she advises “… creative enterprises to inventory their intellectual property … Once you identify the portfolio, then you can manage it, then you know how to protect it. (It’s important) to police for infringements and to enforce intellectual property rights through litigation, if necessary.”

Sculptor Rich Kolb of Yardbirds/Bandana is a local artist who has kept Citrynell busy with at least 300 copyright infringement cases. As she explains, “One of the reasons Bandana was able to successfully sue infringers and fend off the onslaught of Chinese knock-offs that flooded retail stores … is that Bandana was prepared. It had registered its copyrights and trademarks, and used contracts to document its ownership of those rights. When the infringements occurred, Bandana was ready to protect its rights.”

Other local clients include Clare Jett of JettStream Productions, publisher of the “Art of the Kentucky Derby” program; Shelly Zegart (Citrynell was her legal advisor on the documentary “Why Quilts Matter”); and Ed Hamilton, when he was creating “The Spirit of Freedom” African-American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Citrynell not only practices law on art’s behalf, she volunteers as well. She is currently on the Speed Art Museum’s Board of Governors, was a founder of Afterimages Repertory Dance Company and the Louisville Orchestra Audience Association, and is an organizer for Kentucky Lawyers for the Arts.