27 January 2023

How much is your IP worth? IP valuation – is it a myth, mystery or something more valuable?

Peter Drucker and Edwards Deming are most often cited as saying that “you can’t manage/improve what you don’t measure.” How do you know which intellectual property (IP) rights to devote more resources to, if you do not know what value it is bringing to the business?

Unlike tangible assets such as cars, houses and machinery, intangible assets (IA) add value through contributions to creating revenue. Examples of IAs include intellectual assets, intellectual capital, and intellectual property. It is not only registered IP rights, such as patents, trade marks, and designs that add value, but the people, contracts, databases, trade secrets, know-how and business efficiencies as well. All of these can be individually valued, or as a combination within a product or service.

Such assets are created by virtue of our skills, experience, and innovative ability to solve problems, hence the intellectual and intangible labels. Businesses and organisations need to understand what intangible assets they possess, identify where these add value to the business or organisation, and finally, put a value on these assets. This process is what we call IA/IP valuation.

Usually, most valuation exercises take place following a trigger event which necessitates it, like a sale, licence agreement, investment round, calculating loss of earnings through infringement of IP, transfer pricing arrangements or even insolvency.

However, there are many benefits to getting ahead of trigger events and starting early. It is advised to get a formal valuation done right after an IP audit. The best practice would also entail updating it regularly as you generate new IAs and relinquish others – it is all about actively managing your portfolio and knowing its value, which can often open up unthought avenues for commercial gain.

Despite its significance and benefits, IP valuation is still shrouded in mystery. The common methods of its calculation fall into three main categories and the differentiating circumstances are the deciding factor as to which one is used. These are the cost method, market method and income method, all conceptually easy to understand, and not just based upon accounting and financial considerations alone, but also a market view of the company, its position within the market and opportunities for growth, including an analysis of risk, a consideration which can greatly affect value.

The cost method looks at the cost to reproduce either the exact same asset, a replication, or a similar asset with the same utility. The premise of value here is that no one would want to pay more for an asset which they could generate internally from scratch. Other considerations include how the asset has aged, or become obsolete, which reduces value. A drawback is that this does not actually give the company an indication of value, but rather opportunity cost and therefore ignores the value which owning the asset contributes to future income.

The market method for IP valuation works the same way as it does for tangible asset valuation. It involves investigating the market prices for a similar house on the same street for example, or the same age and make of a car. Just like a house will be adjusted for having an extension or larger garden, a patent value must be adjusted for countries where it is granted, field of use, claims cover and other factors. This method relies heavily on a liquid market with a lot of exact transactions, which is hard to find in an intangible asset class. Again, it only looks at the current market value, not considering the future capability to generate income.

Considering the drawbacks and the limited usefulness of the above methods, the most common measure of value for IAs and IP is the income method, which looks at financial modelling and forecasts for the business using the IP asset. The cash flows are calculated and then discounted back to today’s value using the discounted cash flow method. This method gives a more realistic valuation in terms of earning capacity and capabilities for the IP over time.

The full process of conducting an IP valuation exercise is supported by a team of people with expertise in financial modelling, market and risk analysis, sector specific knowledge, as well as IP from a commercial and legal perspective. Expert involvement allows for a comprehensive and reliable analysis of the assets and market in question, resulting in an accurate valuation.

Our Mathys & Squire Consulting team is well equipped to answer any further questions you may have.

Brian More
Head of Consulting