Intellectual Property Rights


Gregory S. DuPont Oct. 27, 2020

In the age of the internet, estates just aren’t as tangible as they used to be. Digital assets, nebulous resources, vaguely defined rights — these shapeless valuables all fall under the umbrella of one of the most important aspects of modern estate planning law: intellectual property. This has caused many in the field to confront some important questions, namely, how do you pass on what you can’t touch?

A Shifting Space

One of the main issues with intellectual property law is that it’s constantly in motion. The field is still new enough that authoritative commentary is generally lacking on how things like copyrights, patents, and trade secrets can be made part of an estate. Contradictory precedents, new legislation, and evolving understandings of how we value intellectual property make this one of the most difficult areas to navigate in our line of work. But as with all navigation, it all comes down to getting your bearings.

The Lay of the Land

Charting the way toward transferring any form of intellectual property requires an assessment of all the factors involved. This will largely depend on the specific type of intellectual property you are looking to pass on. For example, copyrights and patents will have an inherent renewal or termination rights attached to them, putting them at risk of slipping into the public domain. On top of these case-by-case considerations, valuation is also an issue.

Maps, Not Territory

Getting an accurate valuation of intellectual property will always be a perilous undertaking. That’s largely because the IRS guidelines on such valuations lack specificity, and methods can get abstract quickly. For example, a novel you wrote might be valued for its “future earnings potential.” But how far into the future does this valuation extend? The wrong methodology might saddle your loved ones with quite a tax burden.

Needless to say, for experts like us, puzzling out these questions is an exciting and challenging part of our job. If you are looking to transfer any sort of intellectual property as part of your estate plan, we can help you chart the course. Call DuPont and Blumenstiel, Estate Attorneys, Columbus, Ohio.