IP values are the ‘time bombs’ of the future

Technology is moving at warp speed these days, and many consider intellectual property, such as patents, copyrights, and trademarks, to be the “final frontier” of valuation. Consider the 1969 divorce of Gene Roddenberry, creator of the Star Trek TV series, which (back then) had just been cancelled after three seasons, with a multimillion dollar production deficit. Syndication efforts were under way, and in a handwritten settlement agreement, Roddenberry took all rights to the series, with one exception: His wife took a one-half interest in all future “profit participation income” from Star Trek.

Importantly, “neither term was defined,” observed Ronald Anteau (Kolodny & Anteau) at the AAML/AICPA conference, “and nobody was thinking about the technology we have now.” Shortly after his divorce, Roddenberry remarried and devoted the rest of his life to developing various Star Trek assets; in 1987, his first wife sued his second wife, as well as his production company, claiming half of all the income generated from Roddenberry’s post-divorce Star Trek efforts. (Diehard Trekkies as well as IP analysts and attorneys can read the 1996 California Court of Appeals’ opinion here.)

“The problem in these cases is: who owns the IP if it’s not protected?” commented co-presenter Neil Beaton (Alvarez & Marsal). “Who created the asset? If it’s a patent, then is the patent the value of the company or is the company the value of the patent?” Or think about the “incredible” ways to “slice and dice” the ownership and value of a song, Beaton added. There’s the songwriter, the composer, the producer, and the record company. Tech-related IP is also “rich with land mines,” especially in the volatile, often dangerous context of divorce. “Protect your client and yourself by looking at all variables to identify and value the asset that is divisible by the judge.”

And tune into IP in Divorce: Dividing Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks, featuring Beaton and Drew Voth (also Alvarez & Marsal), on May 23. The two experts promise to take the emotion out of the analysis, leaving only the logic of IP valuation, as illustrated by recent case law and applied in current best practices and techniques.