An estate plan can include a wide variety of assets from the traditional house and car to intellectual property (IP) assets such as patents, copyrighted artwork, and trademarks for closely held businesses. When planning an estate, these items should be considered to ensure your heirs are aware of your ownership and your heirs should know what steps need to be taken to preserve the intellectual property protections.
Can You Pass Down Your IP?
Different types of IP have different termination timelines tied to different factors. Any IP you do want to pass down must be properly transferred, and that transfer documented so that the new owner can claim their rights. You may want to have someone appraise the value of your IP when including it your estate. Remember that estates of a certain value are exempt from estate taxes and, since certain intellectual property can be hugely valuable, those assets may need to be handled differently in order to minimize estate taxes.
Another useful tactic is to assign a secondary fiduciary for the estate who is an expert in IP law and can help your heirs maximize the value they derive from your IP.
How Long Does IP Protection Last?
Patents, for example, have a timeline that runs for a period of years from issue date after which it’s no longer valuable and worth transferring. During it’s lifetime, however, a patent can be a hugely valuable asset. Depending on the type of patent, they’re good for 15 to 20 years and can be monetized in a variety of ways, from directly selling the product to licensing the technology to others able to produce the product.
The length of time a copyright lasts depends on when the work was created. A creative work authored after 1978 and owned by the author lasts for the author’s lifetime plus 70 years. Therefore, the creation of your estate also starts the clock on the value of the copyright.
Trademarks, meanwhile, have no specific expiration date but are instead tied to their active use in the stream of commerce. They must be periodically renewed with the US Patent and Trademark Office in order to ensure national protection continues.
An intangible asset like IP can be just as complicated to handle as a tangible asset of equal value and, while many of the same strategies apply, it also helps to consider IP as a separate category due to it’s unique nature. At Dunn Law Firm, we take the time to get to know you and your specific situation in order to create a comprehensive estate plan that meets your goals. To learn more, reach out to the Dunn Law Firm by calling (435) 628-5405 to set up a free consultation today.