Intangible Assets

Worldwide, the total asset value of patents (just one type of intellectual asset) is estimated at $1 trillion. Intellectual asset licensing revenues in the United States alone increased from $15 billion in 1990 to $110 billion in 2000, and is expected to be $500 billion by 2015. Intuitively, intellectual asset protection is big business, but is it reserved for big business?

What’s the one word that comes to mind when you read Apple and Samsung in the same sentence? That word is more likely than not directly associated with another word: Patents. And although we’ve all had our share of speculative hearsay on the latest battle of the infamous “patent wars,” there are at least two undisputed facts that anyone can understand:: the expenses of patent protection can be in the millions of dollars, while the rewards from patent protection can be the billions.

Media’s portrayal of corporate giants and their astonishing successes (or failures) often lead the small business CEO to believe that the world of intellectual property (IP) is uncertain, unattainable, unnecessary, or, worse, reserved for big business – misconceptions this article hopes to dispel.

Big or small, nearly every business has a nucleus of intangible assets on which it relies to prosper in the face of capitalistic competition. In today’s economy, intangible assets, including IP, constitute nearly 80 percent of corporate value (up from 68% in 1995, 32% in 1985, and just 17% in 1975).

What can a early-stage or small business CEO learn from this statistic?  Don’t undervalue your company’s IP – start identifying, protecting, and leveraging your company’s IP portfolio now.  At an early stage, your intangible assets (for instance, the business model or prototype you’ve spent months developing) is one of the very few factors in determining your company’s value.

What’s more valuable than protecting your IP portfolio with perceived, intangible, value? The tangible protection from competition, misappropriation, or, more importantly, that big corporation waiting to put you out of business.  (With a patent, they’ll just buy you out.)  Moreover, the passage of the America-Invents-Act makes it critical to protect your IP as soon as you can afford it.  Thanks to companies like SmartUp, you can afford it now.

If you are interested in more detail related to your situation it is best to speak with an attorney.

Yuri Eliezer heads the intellectual property practice group at Founders Legal. As an entrepreneur who saw the importance of early-stage patent protection, Yuri founded SmartUp®. Clients he has served include Microsoft, Cisco, Cox, AT&T, General Electric, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Coca-Cola.

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