Resource Roundup: Adding intellectual property to your asset research
When researching assets, don’t forget to check intellectual property. Unlike, for example, a car, home, or commercial property, intellectual property–including patents, copyrights, and trademarks–is considered an intangible asset, something that’s “created with the mind.”
Most people don’t have a list of inventions or trademarks that add up to much value, but, occasionally, you can uncover assets that you might have otherwise left on the table. Businesses, on the other hand, and many people who pass their assets through a company, could quite possibly maintain a portfolio of intellectual property that they haven’t disclosed. In some cases, there may not be an accurate inventory but, if you search, you might find it.
That’s why, when a client needs to know about assets that don’t show up in financial disclosure documents, it’s a good idea add some intellectual property searching to your preliminary research. Keep in mind, though, that this type of research requires specialized skills and databases, and there’s a difference between what you or I might find and what an expert will find. For a first pass, though, you can try these intellectual property sources:
Copyright Catalog – From the Library of Congress Copyright Office, the Copyright Public Records Catalog includes 20 million records for works registered and documents recorded with the Copyright Office since 1978. They offer powerful advanced search and filtering options, and you can submit requests for research and certification. The catalog includes type of work, registration date, description, publication date, and more.
U.S. Patent and Trademark Offices – With separate databases for patents and trademarks, this site is a great start for some initial searching before handing it over to a specialist. If you’re new to intellectual property searching, make sure to read the basic guides and click the “Find help in your area link” for a state-by-state list of libraries and other key resources. In the spirit of using more than one search tool for better coverage, you can also try Google Patents.
Patentscope – For international patents, trademarks, designs, creative works, and more, Patentscope offers simple and advanced search pages, and the database is updated daily. Also try Espacenet (from the European Patent Office) for free access to tens of millions of global patent documents from the 19th century through the present. With both sites, make sure to take advantage of their extensive help and training options or consult an expert.
What sources do you use for researching intellectual property assets?