Did you know that intellectual property rights do not end with the death of the creator? Similar to other assets, intellectual property can be passed on by a will, trust, or even intestacy. Since intellectual property is an intangible asset, many people do not realize that intellectual property is also transferrable property. Intellectual property rights are one of the most valuable assets a person can own and it is important to account for the ownership of intellectual property after death.
If intellectual property rights are not included in the will, they will be passed on through intestacy laws. The intestacy law determines the distribution of assets of someone who died without a will. It can also apply to the distribution of assets not listed on a will. Oftentimes, people do not account for intellectual property rights while estate planning. If the intellectual property rights have not expired, it will continue to be effective and can be transferred through a will to the written beneficiaries.
Trademarks and Copyrights
It is extremely important to include trademark ownership in estate planning because the life of a trademark is potentially endless. A trademark is a logo or a phrase that identifies a specific company. Only the holder of the trademark can use the trademarked mark or phrase. As long as the mark continues to be used and renewed, the mark will not have an expiration date. In order to have the exclusive right to continue using the mark, it must be passed on to a beneficiary through a will.
A copyright will most likely outlive the owner as well. The copyright law gives authors the sole right to publish and distribute their creative work in all forms. Copyrights protect creative pieces of work such as books, essays, photographs, music, art, movies, or video. The benefits of a copyright could be substantial, especially if the piece of work is well known.
For example, the late Andy Warhol remains one of the most successful artists of all time. The earnings from all paintings sold after his death is passed onto his beneficiaries who hold the copyright. When transferring a copyright, it is important to note that the transfer of an item, such as a painting, does not mean the transfer of copyright rights. In order to be legitimate, the transfer of a copyright must be in writing.
Patents must also be transferred in writing. Patents are issued to inventors to protect novel inventions. Unlike trademarks and copyrights, patents are only valid until the expiration date. After the expiration of a patent, the rights to the invention become public property. The will must clearly state who has the ownership to the patent, who has the right to license it, and who must take responsibility for the patent until its expiration. The process of transferring a patent becomes more complicated when the patent filer passes away before the patent application process is finished. In this case, the executor of the will may apply for the patent.
Intellectual Property in Estate Planning
The first step to include intellectual property in a will is to evaluate the assets. It is difficult to put a price on intellectual property, as it is an intangible asset. A valuation expert is needed to determine the value of the property. The intellectual property owner must decide whom their property should be passed to, whether it is their children or other family members.
If the property isn’t put on to the will, intestacy laws will decide where it would go. It is possible for the property rights to be passed to someone that was not intended to own it. The beneficiary should be able to care for the intellectual property throughout their lifetime. Their duties include monitoring and prosecuting infringers.
Intellectual property is important to include in estate planning since it has become an increasingly valuable asset. In order to ensure the protection of these assets after death, it is crucial to for the rights to be passed onto a trusted beneficiary.
Wang IP Law Group, P.C. is a Los Angeles based full service legal firm that specializes in intellectual property law (patent, trademark, copyright, and licensing agreement), business and commercial litigation, and a wide range of other legal matters including immigration, real estate, and landlord/tenant cases. Our multilingual attorneys represent clients from all over California and internationally from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, and Israel.
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