The Disposal of Intangible Assets

The simplest and most beneficial way to dispose of intellectual property is to release it into the public domain.

The simplest and most beneficial way to dispose of intellectual property is to release it into the public domain.

To grow your wealth you must manage your assets wisely. That means not just acquiring assets, but disposing of them when it becomes appropriate. As part of streamlining your business operations or consolidating your holdings, you may need to dispose of a wide variety of the assets under your control if they should perform badly or become a burden to manage. Intangible assets contrast with other types of assets, such as physical objects like cars and financial instruments like stocks, but you can still dispose of them just the same by selling, donating, or abandoning them.

Intangible Assets Explained

Intangible assets have no material form, meaning you can’t physically possess them. Nevertheless they provide the owner with an economic benefit or potential economic benefit just like any other asset type. Intangible assets most notably include intellectual property like copyrights and patents, as well as less formal but related concepts such as brand recognition, customer goodwill and even human resources business practices that boost worker productivity.

Selling

As with other kinds of assets, you can dispose of your intangible assets completely by selling them. You may find this preferable to retaining ownership in cases where the assets require a continuing cost to maintain, operate or protect, such as an online gallery of photos that you own and license. The caveat here is that you have to find a willing buyer. Many intangible assets transfer poorly to other owners because their value depends more heavily upon subjective quantities like artistic beauty, and what you find valuable might not look valuable to the next person. Contrast this with the relatively straightforward economic utility of a physical asset like a used car. To sell intangible assets, it helps to have revenue data suggesting a monetization potential that reflects your asking price.

Legality

To sell anything legally you must first have the right to do so, which may affect intangible assets that you developed in conjunction with your employer or an academic institution. If you share control over any assets, you must obtain the consent of the other interested parties before you can proceed with a sale.

Donating

You can release some intangible assets, such as intellectual property, into the public domain, or donate them to a charity or institution -- again provided that you have sole control over them or can obtain permission from all interested parties. Releasing assets into the public domain or donating them to charity is a boon to human culture, and it is a quick way to get rid of assets that no one wants to buy. Other intangible assets, such as brand recognition, have no legal form and hence nothing you can release into the public domain, although you can still donate them to charity if you can find someone who will take them.

Abandonment

If you can’t find any buyers or interested charities, and if your assets have no legal form that you can release into the public domain, then you can simply walk away. Lacking substance, the assets will dissolve. If you walk away from intellectual property, it will effectively revert to the public domain once others begin to use it.

About the Author

Josh Fredman is a freelance pen-for-hire and Web developer living in Seattle. He attended the University of Washington, studying engineering, and worked in logistics, health care and newspapers before deciding to go to work for himself.

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